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The best Christmas songs of all time

Amy Pollock, Clodagh Mc Ateer, Rachel Coyle and Tanisha Power from Ulster University’s Choir
Amy Pollock, Clodagh Mc Ateer, Rachel Coyle and Tanisha Power from Ulster University’s Choir
Sir Cliff Richard
Chris Rea
Great version: James Taylor

From The Pogues' fairytale of New York to carols such as In The Bleak Midwinter, Kerry McKittrick asks local personalities what's their favourite festive music to hear.

Stuart Bailie (54), is a music journalist and presenter. He says:

My all-time Christmas song is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty McColl. I heard the song in New York the October before it came out, as I had been sent over to interview the band just after they made the video. I was transfixed by it and played it again and again.

I was in New York for four days following The Pogues, as they were playing two shows at the Ritz. I finally got an interview with Shane MacGowan at a Japanese restaurant and he drank about 20 bottles of sake while we were there. When the bill was handed to the guy from the record company he told Shane he had just drank away the royalties of the whole single - no-one was expecting it to turn out the way it did.

It was a beautiful time and I encountered Kirsty McCall on a couple of occasions too. Every time I hear the song it puts a wee smile on my face."

Actress Caroline Curran (32), is currently starring in Last Orders At The Rough Diamond at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey. She lives in Belfast with her fiancé Christopher. She says:

My favourite song is Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. It's the last song in our Christmas show right now, but that's not why I like it so much.

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My mum and dad are singers and we would have gone to watch them in the social club at Christmas every year.

When they sang that song everyone knew exactly what it was as soon as the opening chords were heard and that was it - everyone was up on the dancefloor."

Paula McIntyre (49) is a food writer and broadcaster from Portstewart. She says:

My favourite is actually a hymn - In The Bleak Midwinter. And as a massive James Taylor fan I think his version is the best I've heard. The song itself reminds me of when I was young and Christmas seemed more special than it is now. While I wouldn't call myself a religious person I do have faith, and back then it was much less about Santa and Christmas presents and more about the fact that we were celebrating the birth of Jesus. At the end of the day it is a Christian festival. The lyrics of the hymn are just beautiful - I believe they come from a Christina Rosetti poem - and the music is gorgeous. It reminds me of a time when we'd be going to lots of carol services and there was much less commercialism than there is today. When I was growing up we thought about what Christmas was about and I think we've lost that. I remember getting two or three gifts as a child - nothing too extravagant. Now, so many people put themselves into debt every year."

Kerry McLean (41), has a show on Radio Ulster every afternoon from Monday to Thursday. She lives in Ballymoney with her husband Ralph and their children Tara (9), Dan (8) and Eve (1). She says:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland is easily my favourite Christmas song - I've always loved it.

The song takes me right back to when I was at a kid and we would go to the Christmas service at midnight in church.

I remember one year being tucked up in blankets in the back of the car with my sister - my mum had an old 2CV which was always freezing.

We were looking out the window and we saw a shooting star. My sister told me it was either a shooting star or Santa on his way and I was very excited about that.

Weirdly, when my son and I were coming back from his school carol concert a few days ago we saw another shooting star.

It was wonderful, as I hadn't seen one again since that night when I was very little."

Jayne Wisener (29), is currently playing Cinderella in the pantomime at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. She lives in London with her husband Wayne. She says:

I love O Holy Night and have done since childhood. I used to be part of a young people's group in church and it was one of the songs we performed. Also, when I was in the choir at high school it was one of the carols we sang in sixth year. I particularly liked it because I got to sing one of the solos.

I love this song when it's sung by a choir - the Belfast Community Gospel Choir does a great version of it with harmonies which make you feel all warm and tingly and Christmassy. People only ever remember the first verse, but the words to the other verses are just lovely too."

Jo-Anne Dobson (50), Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann, lives in Waringstown with her husband John. They have two sons, Elliot (26) and Mark (23). She says:

Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas resonates with me this year as my oldest son is travelling home from London where he now lives.

It's an old song that's been around for a while.

I'm making all sorts of plans to pick Elliot up from the airport and welcome him home, so he's not driving as such.

When your kids grow up and move out, the songs that you loved when you were much younger, but didn't realise the significance of, start to mean something.

I love hearing Christmas songs on the radio and in shops, because that's when I start getting those Christmassy feelings."

Vinny Hurrell (34), is a radio producer and also presents The Vinny Hurrell Show on Mondays on Radio Ulster, 10.10pm. He lives in Belfast with his partner. He says:

My childhood memory of Christmas is that selection boxes had full-sized versions of chocolate bars so you got lots of stuff in them.

I once got a selection box with a cassette tape in it full of Christmas songs - nowadays it would be a download code or a memory stick, but a cassette tape seemed much more personal.

That tape was played constantly, but it's Cliff Richard's song Mistletoe & Wine that always reminds me of that time in my life.

It also reminds me of my granny, who was into Christmas in big way - whenever I hear that song I think of her."

Lynda Bryans (52), is a TV presenter and lecturer. She lives in Belfast with her husband Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and their two sons, PJ (20) and Christopher (18). She says:

Christmas songs are like a form of torture sometimes! Although we only hear them once a year, they're repeated over and over again until we're thoroughly sick of them.

Carols have more longevity, not least because you don't hear them on the radio incessantly. I love Silent Night, particularly if it's sung in the original German.

The best time to hear it is at Christmas mass, when they dim the lights and it feels that something special is happening.

When the boys were small and had gone to bed and we would be up to help Santa out, we would listen to carols.

One year I was up until 1am assembling a toy pirate ship and I put on the carols from King's on the TV. Now it's a Christmas Eve tradition for us. A solo singer at King's always sings the first verse of Once in Royal David's City, but they don't know who it will be until just before they go on, so they've all been trained to do it."

Colin McGrath (41), is an SDLP MLA for South Down. He says:

I love Christmas songs, as they are such an important part of the season.

My favourite one has to be Fairytale of New York, with Kirsty McColl and The Pogues. This song was in the charts when I was a teenager.

You knew you were at the Christmas disco in the youth club when you heard that coming on. I remember me and my mates charging round the dance floor to that. When I hear that song, I know that it's Christmas."

Belfast Telegraph


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