How 12 voices are giving classic carols a new sound

Fraser Wilson, carols.
Fraser Wilson, carols.

Albion Choral Group

Christmas music is greeting us at every turn – but, with the season seemingly starting earlier every year, how many of us are already secretly a bit fed up of hearing the same old carols played on repeat?

Sheffield musician Fraser Wilson, who runs the choral group Albion, has a solution.

The choir he established in Sheffield two years ago is popularising a new style of carol-singing. Fraser takes carols that are already well loved, but creates new versions of them to be sung by Albion’s 12 unaccompanied voices.

Fraser, a composer and a graduate of the University of Sheffield, explains: “I call the process reimagining, because I aim to preserve the essence of the carol, even though I am creating new harmonies and a new texture around it.” He usually begins by playing or singing through the carol twenty or thirty times until he knows it intimately. He then experiments with harmonies and ideas at the piano “until the solution comes into my head, and the music is often fully formed before I begin to write it down.”

Then the choir gets to work: an unusual group, they sing without a conductor and do not use sheet music, so every singer has to memorise it before they can begin to perform.

This Christmas, the singers have high hopes for the new versions of classics O Holy Night and The Coventry Carol that they are preparing to perform this week. “We hope that these new carols will put Sheffield on the map for contributing something new.”

Albion’s concerts take place on Friday at Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses, and Saturday in, Tideswell. Tickets from