Elizabeth Maconchy

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, part eight.

I keep waiting to be sophisticated. To be the sort of grown-up who puts Radio 3 on while preparing the Christmas dinner. It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe this year. Probably not.

It depends what they are playing, I suppose. Which carols. I really like that ‘snow was falling snow on snow’ one. That’s my favourite. I also like the ‘one on his scooter parping his hooter’ one. But a lot of carols are garbage. Hark the Herald Angels Sing goes on a bit. Once in Royal David’s City is a bore. Little Donkey is dog shit (though I’m not convinced that gets played on Radio 3, so my opinion on that might be irrelevant to the matter at hand). Radio 3, to their credit, will also play loads of carols you haven’t heard of. [More accurately, they play a lot of carols I haven’t heard of. You might already know all the carols.]

In a break from the pattern I have set up this month, I actually did a bit of research for today’s post. My knowledge of classical music is quite poor. It is something that I decide to get into every five years or so but always get a bit confused and give up. My problem is that I like the early and early-ish stuff (Hildegard von Bingen? Hildegard von Banging more like. Johannes Ockeghem? Can’t get enough of him. Tomaso Albinoni? Yes Please) I’m all on board for JS Bach and Handel too, but after that, I get bored. It would be something of an exaggeration to say I’m not overly bothered by any classical music between then and 1892 (when Pagliacci was first performed) or anything between then and 1992 (when Altern-8 released Full on…Mask Hysteria) but, for clickbait purposes, let’s run with it.

Feel free to suggest anything I’ve missed in those two and a half centuries of music by the way. I’m willing to listen to reason. I have heard good things about that Beethoven. I hear Rossini had his moments. Let me know, yeah?

Where was I? Oh yes, my lack of knowledge about classical music… so… I wanted to include a composer among my twelve dames but due to my ignorance of classical composers (and, let’s be honest, the ridiculously tight grip of the patriarchy on the canon which has ensured that ninety nine of the hundred most famous composers are men) I didn’t know any. So, being a genius, I found a (way too short) list of female composers who had been given a damehood and then Googled each of their names with the word ‘Christmas’. The name with the most promising links was Elizabeth Maconchy.

Now, obviously, most of Britain’s orchestras and choirs are too busy rerecording the same few Elgar and Benjamin Britten pieces to give anything by Elizabeth Maconchy a go, but I did find a few videos of her arrangements of traditional Christmas carols on YouTube. Unfortunately I don’t have the academic skills to tell you why I think they are good. They sound nice is all.

Here’s one. See what you think…