Playlist: Modern Music for Holiday Merriment

By Adela Skowronski |

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a green Christmas tree leans through an open red door“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

There’s something deeply familiar about the music that drifts through public spaces during winter holidays. Its annual appearance over department store speakers acts like a signaling light, indicating that a festive time of year has begun. But at the same time, this unofficial holiday playlist can start to feel almost... well... stuck.

A select number of Yuletide songs have ingrained themselves into the very spirit of the season, dominating the landscape with nostalgia year after year without allowing space for new music to rise up in the ranks. For some, the annual return of these songs is welcomed with open arms. Yet for many, there comes a point when this music begins to feel less like a tradition and more like a chore!

If you find yourself in the latter camp this holiday season, here’s a new way to enjoy the festivities! WFMT’s New Holiday Music playlist features holiday music that may be the staples of tomorrow. We chose to open the window with pieces created after the 1965 release of the wonderful Charlie Brown Christmas album. Yet, our final playlist has a median age that’s younger still! Our musical research uncovered a wealth of winter pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries, ranging from totally fresh arrangements of old tunes to new winter works altogether.

Enjoy choral music by Reena Esmail, a brand-new carol by the Pembroke College Girls’ Choir, holiday mashups by Chicago-based string quartet ATLYS, and so much more. We’ve even thrown in some music from modern winter film favorites, and some classical-crossover mixes to get your twinkle toes tapping.

Look: holiday classics are classics for a reason. We love returning to these pieces year after year because many of them are genuinely great pieces of music, and ones we associate with core holiday memories. But in between listening to beloved holiday classics, we encourage you to enjoy a cool breath of fresh air and listen to our merry modern-day holiday playlist.

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