British Columbia

Sick of Mariah Carey? This classical Christmas Advent calendar could be the cure

The Prince George Conservatory of Music is highlighting lesser-known holiday tunes from centuries past.

The Advent calendar features classical winter music from the past four centuries

The artistic director of the Prince George Conservatory of Music says she hopes the project helps people discover new favourites, including classical music, to return to during the holidays. Here, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra is pictured performing a baroque Christmas concert. (Ivan Hughes)

If you find yourself a little Grinchy when you hear Christmas standards playing at the shopping mall or on the radio, Shoshanna Godber is ready to help.

The artistic director of the Prince George Conservatory of Music is spending December sharing an Advent calendar of classical winter tunes from the past 400 years.

She's revealing the tracks one day at a time on the Conservatory's Facebook page, while the entire playlist is available on YouTube.

She said she's been getting a great response from the community, with people writing to tell her they are enjoying discovering a new song every morning.

Godber has nothing against the better-known tracks — she admits to singing along when Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You comes on  — but she also knows people can get tired of hearing the same few tracks annually.

"You hear a lot of people saying, 'Oh, I hate listening to Christmas music,' because it really is just the last few decades' worth that we hear," she said. "But there's more than 400 years of really great Christmas music out there."

She started with a relatively well-known piece, Vivaldi's Winter, before moving on to deeper cuts — some of which she had never heard before.

The oldest is William Byrd's 1607 composition O Magnum Mysterium, while the most recent is Little Tree, composed by Eric Whitacre in 1996.

She noted that despite the centuries separating them, there are some similarities between the two pieces — particularly the use of a choir as the primary instrument.

"That kind of makes you picture a nice winter day with a cathedral," she said.

But not everything is as peaceful — there's also Olivier Messiaen's Noël, a dissonant piano piece composed in 1944.

While not everyone will enjoy everything on the list, she hopes the project helps people discover some new favourites to return to year after year.

"It's about exposing people to music that they might not otherwise hear," she said.

"There's a lot of really great music out there to listen to this time of year without having to listen to the same again and again."

Listen to the full interview with Shoshanna Godber

Do you find yourself feeling a little Grinchy when radio stations and shopping malls start playing the holiday standards? Prince George Conservatory of Music Shoshanna Godber hopes she has the cure: A musical advent calendar highlighting more than 400 years of lesser-known classical Christmas tunes.

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Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at You can also send encrypted messages using Signal to 250.552.2058.


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