Veni Emmanuel: Music for Advent

To celebrate the start of Advent, parish musician Nick Baty has selected his all-time top-10 of music for the season.

I'm a complete grinch when it comes to the pre-Christmas fest. I shop early or late to avoid the supermarket versions of Frosty the Snowman and Silent Night. In our churches, the mood is sedate and calm – with occasional bursts of joy – as we prepare for Christmas.

There is so much beautiful music for Advent that we couldn't possibly use it all in the four weeks of the season. And how to choose just 10? If I've missed any favourites, you can contact us using the form at the bottom of the page.

But, for now, light the Advent candle, pour a wee dram and settle back to celebrate this joyful season in song.

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O come, O come Emmanuel

O come, O come Emmanuel is probably the best-known hymn for Advent. The words and the music grew up separately over two or three centuries. And the English translation in most of our hymnbooks was first published in the early 1800s.

There is a longing

Not specifically for Advent, but this gentle piece by Anne Quigley speaks of the longing we feel as Advent progresses. Parish musicians could use this each week.

Come to set us free

When she wrote Come to set us free, in the early 1980s, Bernadette Farrell wasn't quite the well-known composer she is today. Back then, Bernadette was a London-based parish musician and a member of the Thomas More Group of composers.

In the day of the Lord

MD Ridge was a parish musician who started composing when she couldn't find the right sort of music for her local church. In the day of the Lord is probably her best-known work. It speaks of that longed-for world of peace which can be found in the prophecy of Isaiah. MD Ridge died in 2017.

City of God

Over the last 40 years, Dan Schutte's, City of God has become something of a parish classic. It speaks of the joy of the coming of the Saviour. I rather like this version from the Folk Choir of Notre Dame University – you can feel the energy of the young singers.

Dear maker of the starry skies

Back in the seventh century, this was known as Conditor alme siderum. But, in 1632, Pope Urban edited it so heavily that only one line of the original remained and it became Creator alme siderum. The English translation is by Anglican priest John Mason Neale.

Wait for the Lord

We're now so used to the music of Taizé that it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't around. And if your parish isn't singing this, it's ideal for meditation at home.

Litany of the Word

There are few music collections or hymnals which don't include a song or 12 by Bernadette Farrell. Litany of the Word is a gentle, meditative litany. And you only need to remember the words "Alleluia" and "Maranatha", an Aramaic word which means "Come, Lord".

Let all mortal flesh keep silence

The words and – probably – the music of this golden oldie are borrowed from the ancient Liturgy of St James. The tune is also known as tune from the region of Picardy. Vaughan Williams paired up the words and music for The English Hymnal. This arrangement is by the composer and saxophone virtuoso, Christian Forshaw.

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came

As Advent draws to a close, we hear the message of the Angel – that Mary will give birth to the Son of God. The muisc is an old basque carol. I always listen carefully in case one of those angelic choir boys is tempted to sing "Most highly flavoured gravy."

• Coming soon: Nick Baty explores the history of some of our best-known Christmas hymns and carols. See The Grapevine on 19 December.