We recently caught up with composer David Bednall to find out how he celebrates Christmas, why he feels music is important to people at Christmas time, and to reflect on the sense of hope that Christmas brings.
What’s your favourite thing about the Christmas season?
The music certainly, and being home for the family Christmas and goose. In many ways, I actually prefer Advent with its sense of expectation. For me, Christmas is a hugely nostalgic time as well as a way of remembering people who are no longer around. That said; I never tire of the beautiful musical pieces of the season, and the wonderful carols.
Is there anything about Christmas that particularly inspires your composing?
The atmosphere and the sense of expectation. It is a season where simple emotions can be very powerful and moving, and where there is a sense of hope for a better future. There are also some wonderful Christmas texts which always help motivate me to compose.
What marks the beginning of Christmas for you?
Advent Sunday, I would think, at the darkness to light service. Although the first Christmas Concert definitely marks the beginning of the feeling of the Christmas season.
What’s your favourite Christmas film?
I’m not sure in all honesty… The Snowman and Father Christmas are family classics. I have to admit though, I never really tire of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmundson’s Bottom Christmas Special….
What’s your favourite Christmas carol and why?
My favourite congregational carol is It came upon a midnight clear – the tune is beautiful, and I’m always very touched by the lines regarding the weariness of the Earth. Darke’s In the bleak midwinter is possibly the most perfect choir carol ever written – I feel that it must have been composed in one fell swoop due to Darke’s sheer inspiration. Howells’s Spotless Rose is also a favourite, and Bax’s Mater ora filium too – the start of the latter is the most evocative sound I know of an imagined medieval Oxford chapel.
Are there any seasonal activities that you particularly enjoy doing?
I like the pub carol singing that happens at home, and the various other social events that occur at this time of year. It’s also nice to have some completely guilt-free lazy time!
What does a typical Christmas day look like for you?
I play for Midnight Mass at the Parish Church in Wells and then go down to Dorset for a family Christmas, often getting to my family home at about 2 am. We have stockings in the morning (it’s a contractual part of coming back) and then goose for lunch before going for a walk and receiving presents in the afternoon, and then possibly playing some games. We have a big family and so we often see people over several days, which mean Christmas lasts for nearly a week!
Why do you think music is so important to people at Christmas time?
I think that Christmas carols are deeply embedded in our psyche (even if many are not actually that old) and provide a reminder of our childhood, which is why we are drawn to them so powerfully – even people who don’t like church music will know at least a few carols. Music is such a powerful force that is even more influential at an emotional time such as Christmas. There are also some fantastic pieces of music especially written for this time; this all adds to how important music is to the season. There is also something deeply joyous about singing carols with others… you feel very connected to the past at that time, I think.
What is the most memorable Christmas you have ever had?
I’m honestly not sure! The ones of childhood with grandparents are always the best – I miss them at Christmas time and love remembering Christmases past when they were round. I do also remember one or two where it really snowed as well!
Featured image credit: Christmas decorations by Suju. Public domain via Pixabay.