A Christmas Carol Symphony

Patric Standford Christmas Carol Symphony extract 1st Movement Vivace.mp3

Christmas Carol Symphony extract 1st Movement Vivace

Patric Standford Christmas Carol Symphony 2nd Movement Andante Tranquillo.mp3

Christmas Carol Symphony extract 2nd Movement Andante Tranquillo

Patric Standford Christmas Carol Symphony 3rd Movement Allegretto.mp3

Christmas Carol Symphony extract 3rd Movement Allegretto

Patric Standford Christmas Carol Symphony 4th Movement Rondo Finale.mp3

Christmas Carol Symphony extract 4th Movement Rondo Finale




15 minutes


  • Orchestral/Large Orchestra

Forces:——Timp—Perc—Hp—Str Reduced orchestra version:——Timp—Perc—Hp—Str

Patric Standford's A Christmas Carol Symphony (Symphony No. 2) began as an improvised entertainment for his children which he eventually built into the framework of an eighteenth century symphony, with a rondo style finale that attempted to use all the familiar Christmas songs and carols that had not been included in the formality of the first three movements.

The first movement (Vivace) features the Welsh song Deck the Halls, Ding-Dong Merrily on High which came from Arbeau's Orchésographie of 1588, and the traditional tune God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. A peaceful second movement (Andante tranquillo) is built around W.J. Kirkpatrick's 1895 tune for Away in a Manger and the 15th century melody made famous by Michael Pretorius early in the 17th century, Behold a Rose is Springing. A lively March introduces the traditional tunes Past Three O'Clock, the Sans Day or St Day Carol collected in Gwennap, Cornwall, and a Gloucester tune The Holly and the Ivy collected by Cecil Sharp. The Rondo finale begins with On Christmas Night, a tune collected in Sussex by Vaughan Williams, the traditional song I Saw Three Ships, and several others including Christians Awake, a tune by John Wainwright known as 'Stockport' dating from 1750, and the traditional American tune We wish you a merry Christmas!

The symphony received its first performance on Christmas Eve 1979 by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Ashley Lawrence as a broadcast for BBC Radio 3, and subsequently became a firm seasonal favourite. It was recorded by the Prague Philharmonic under the direction of Gavin Sutherland especially for Naxos in 2002.

'An ingenious piece, as clever as Prokofiev's Classical Symphony with the addition of all the well-known Christmas tunes. . . ' (Classical Music) 

'Here is the hand of a true symphonic craftsman off duty, with colour, wit and imagination in his veins . . . a masterly blending of a galaxy of carols.' (Donald Webster, Yorkshire Post)




First performance/broadcast

December 1979

BBC Concert orchestra, conducted by Ashley Lawrence