Christmas at Westminster Abbey
Simon Preston
Deutsche Grammophon
Catalogue No.

At the age of 22, in 1963 when he became sub-Organist of Westminster Abbey, Simon Preston was already the anointed Crown Prince of the King of Instruments. The reputation of his virtuosity and stylish response to a repertoire of five centuries had spread far before him. Having left the Abbey in 1967, he then returned in 1981 as Organist and Master of Choristers. In this capacity he had charge of the Abbey’s three carol services at Christmas, which are represented on this Deutsche Grammophon album from 1984.

Preston alighted, in particular, on modern carols written by British composers during recent decades. There are settings of traditional words by the late Peter Maxwell Davies, Arthur Oldham and Pete Wishart as well as a new classic by Elizabeth Poston, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. Others set verses by contemporary poets; Benjamin Britten’s A Shepherd’s Carol (O lift your little pinkie) has a text by W.H. Auden which uses the language of cowboys from the American west. They take their place alongside arrangements of older carols (The Holly and the Ivy, In dulci jubilo) as well as some of the medieval settings in their original form such as the fifteenth-century English carol, Illuminare Jerusalem, (better known now in a setting by Judith Weir).

For this recording, Preston arranged the music into six groups, two each from the pieces sung annually at the three carol services with well-known Christmas hymns (including Good King Wenceslas and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) interspersed at several points among the carols.


TRAD: Up! awake! from highest steeple (Wachet auf!) (arr. Jacob Praetorius)
ARTHUR OLDHAM: Remember O thou man                                                                    TRAD: There stood in Heaven a Linden Tree (arr. G.H. Palmer)
PETER WISHART: Alleluya, A New Work is come on Hand
GUSTAV CHARPENTIER: Salve puerile (arr. John Rutter)
TRAD: The Holly and the Ivy (arr. H. Walford Davies)
POSTON: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree                                                                                  MICHAEL PRAETORIUS: Resonet in laudibus (arr. Herbert Birtner)
TRAD: Ding Dong! Merrily on high (arr. Charles Wood)
PETER MAXWELL DAVIES: Nowell (Out of your Sleep Arise)
ANDFREAS HAMMERSCHMIDT Alleluja! Freuet euch, ihr Christen alle
TRAD: Up! Good Christen folk, and listen (arr. G.R. Woodward)
TRAD: In dulci jubilo (arr. R.L. Pearsall)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
SAMUEL SCHEIDT: Puer Natus in Bethlehem
TRAD: Rocking (arr. Sir David Willcocks)
JOHN GARDNER: Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day
TRAD: Illuminare Jerusalem
BENJAMIN BRITTEN: A Shepherd’s Carol
TRAD: Good King Wenceslas

Choir of Westminster Abbey
Christopher Herrick, organ
Simon Preston

Recording information

Executive Producers: Dr. Andreas Holschneider, Charlotte Kriesch
Recording Producer: Dr. Gerd Ploebsch
Recording Location: Westminster Abbey, London, UK, 28 February–2 March 1984
Balance Engineer: Hans-Peter Schweigmann


‘The Choir of Westminster Abbey is on its toes in a lively mixture of old and new, familiar and less so.’ Gramophone, December 1984