Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Christmas Overture’

Christmas tree decorationsLooking for five minutes of orchestral Christmas music which includes all the old favourite carols?  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Christmas Overture is probably just the ticket.

Amongst the easily recognisable Christmas carol themes encompassed in the Overture are God rest you merry gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas and Hark the herald angels sing.

Arranged by Sydney Baynes (best remembered for his Destiny Waltz) in 1925, some years after Coleridge-Taylor’s tragically early death, the music is thought to be derived from SC-T’s incidental music for The Forest of Wild Thyme op.74, a ‘charming poetical fairy drama’ for children by Alfred Noyes (and intended for production in 1910, but not then performed).

The score is available, e.g., from

You can listen to this work on The Night Before Christmas Naxos  and here:

Reviews of the work and its recordings can be read here:

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1 Response to Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Christmas Overture’

  1. Nathan Mathurin says:

    I’ve been acquainted with Coleridge-Taylor’s Christmas Overture for many years, mainly through an old 1932 recording by Malcolm Sargent and the New Symphony Orchestra. Recently, I bought the full score as ‘arranged’ by Sydney Baynes. It is a charming work, and actually well structured: all the themes flow from one to the next quite seamlessly! But one fact bothers me – can someone please tell me where ‘God rest you, merry gentlemen’ is used in the overture? I cannot hear it, nor see it in any part of the score (goodness knows, I’ve looked again and again!). But yet everywhere I read (including the score foreword and various websites), it is stated that this carol is used. ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is used at the opening, then developed before an original ‘jig’ theme enters (later in counterpoint with Big Ben’s chime!) then grandly closing with an extended version of ‘Hark, the herald angels sing’, but NO merry gentlemen are taking part in this work! I’m either being really silly, or this is a completely erroneous fact which has been allowed to go on for too long. I’m also a church organist, and I know full well what the tune sounds like, and it is undetectable in any guise (even though Coleridge-Taylor was very skilful at thematic transformations in his music)! I’ve either set myself up for the biggest humiliation, or this myth has to be done away with. Someone please write back and put me out of my misery! Many thanks in advance!

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