Christmas is a time for giving. For caring. For sharing. It’s also a time for deafening cacophonies of entire junior schools simultaneously striking the same chime bars but somehow getting different notes while all also singing in entirely different keys. None of which are the actual key that they’re supposed to be in.
Welcome to TV Cream’s Christmas Carol concert, where we’ll be taking a look at some of those songs you belted out like you were in the chorus of We Are The World while shaking one of those wooden sticks with two bells on either end to no appreciable percussive effect. Here is our order of service…
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
‘Beechams Pills are just the thing’-inviting mass harmonic pile-on, where everyone quickly realises they only know the first two and a half lines and it degenerates into “er fer nerh ber ner ber herf nerf”-style non-vocal approximations which still thunder on for four verses regardless.
The Holly And the Ivy
Always performed exclusively by a breakway handpicked selection of teacher’s pet types who could ‘do’ harmonies, which came as something of a relief to the sidelined masses who generally considered its references to decorative plants, woodland animals and ‘merry’ organs a tad sappy.
Once In Royal David’s City
Over-explanatory Nativity chronicle followed by roughly 17 million verses about how “Jesus was quite nice to people, wasn’t he?” etc etc. Notable for being the one that the assembled masses think that they like because it’s a bit ‘different’, only to quickly realise that they can’t stand it.
Contemplative ‘show’s over, folks’ ode to Mary wanting to get a bit of kip, provoking stifled giggles from some of the older kids who assumed that only they in the entire world knew ‘virgin’ was a rude word. Class show-off would endlessly angle to sing it in German, but was sensibly rebuffed.
Ding Dong Merrily On High
Rousing yodel-along that could never quite be stifled by irritatingly chirpy hippy teacher’s attempts to impose order on chaos by breaking it down into smaller manageable ‘glory-glory-glory-glor’ segments. Also invariably provoked a lone yet clearly audible “what does IO mean?”.
Away In A Manger
Slightly sprightlier companion piece to Silent Night, often necessitating a quick rehearsal-interrupting explanation of what ‘lowing’ meant. Also may or may not have featured a middle eight that the kids who went to a different church claimed to know and refused to countenance the absence of.
Songs Of Praise-esque ‘fun’ one, taken at a daringly jaunty pace though carefully shorn of vernacular spellings to avert mass outbreak of Jim Davidson-esque ‘comedy’ accents. Not that this stopped the class boneheads. Or TV’s Mike Read.
The First Noel
Nondescript word-repeating retelling of the star-following antics of the shepherds, which nonetheless gained a degree of furtive-thumbs-up approval in the immediate aftermath of the transmission of The Box Of Delights.
We Three Kings Of Orient Are
‘Wise Men’-centric companion piece to the above, charting their star-following antics by placing the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh on an unlikely even lyrical footing. The sheer number of ‘comedy’ variants of this one could fill an entire carol concert on their own.
Good King Wenceslas
Scuffles would inevitably break out on the back row over whether it was ‘Wenceslas looked out’, ‘Wences last looked out’ or even in extreme cases ‘Wenceslas last looked out’. Close fitting of the lyrics to the ‘Noodle Doodle came to town’ ad did not go unnoticed either.
Clip-clopping trudgeathon often performed as a hum-accompanied duet between the school’s It-Girl-In-Waiting and her less easily labelled male counterpart, who it’s safe to say would not be giving Richard and Karen Carpenter cause for vocal concern.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Faintly sinister-sounding minor chord rumination on the darker side of the struggle between good and evil, which always made the ‘tidings of comfort and joy’ bit sound like an ironic joke. Everyone’s dad knowing a non-PC rewrite pun version did little to help matters.
The Little Drummer Boy
Inevitably prefixed by “David Bowie sings this, with… someone else” nods of approval, and indeed usually necessitating a stern rebuke for those placing enthusiastic over-emphasis on the climactic ‘ra-pa-pa-pum’s.
I Saw Three Ships
Maddeningly chipper mock-sea shanty seemingly tailor-made for that teacher who would knock seven bells out of the piano in assembly, usually collapsing into disarray almost immediately as baffled pupils tried to get their head around its blatant disregard for Nativity ‘canon’.
In The Bleak Midwinter
Always opening with a mouthed ‘quietly!’ from one of the teachers, and winning much favour with the quietness-adopters on account of its elaborate description of just how bleak that midwinter was. Well, elaborate apart from ‘snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow’.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Subdued proto-angsty indie singer-songwriter mumblefest much beloved of the aspirant goths lurking on the varnish-depleted school benches. Impatient entreaties to remember the verbal distinction between ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘shall’ were a must.
The one that everyone else apart from you seemed to know off by heart, launching in to what sounded to your confused ears like some heroically coherent free-jazz excursion on the theme of keeping Jesus warm. Extra points for ‘anarchic’ types briefly doing air guitar to the ‘we will rock you’ bits before being spotted.
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Last Night Of The Proms-esque rowdy favourite on account of volume variations in the repeated, ‘O come let us adore him’s, temptation to suddenly belt out the ‘sing, choirs of angels’ verse, and general overwhelming urge to sing ‘O come let us ignore him, Christ the bored’, in full knowledge that everyone else would be too loud for you to be heard.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Cheery salute to sock-washage inevitably spoiled by the ‘hard’ kids making remarks about what else the shepherds did to their flocks when there was no angel there to appear to them.
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
The Tales Of Topographic Oceans of Christmas Carols, seeming to last for about four months and 54 million verses of soaring atmospherics. The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and it’s time to break up for Christmas once more! Apart from…
Joy To The World
One last bit of bell-shaking jubilation and it’s off home early to catch Carry On Cruising on BBC1 and scoff all the biscuits before the rest of your family get home. Merry Christmas!
TV Cream would like to extend its very best wishes for the Festive Season and the New Year to all of our readers, regardless of their nationality, religion, or position on which of the Captain Zeps was best.