When you think of television shows with a massive cult following, you typically think of science fiction and fantasy programs like Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. But one of the most dedicated television cult followings belongs to ITV’s World War I period drama “Downton Abbey”, which airs on PBS in the United States. So it’s no surprise that this Christmas season brings a gift to fans of “Downton Abbey” in the form of Warner Brothers’ new “Christmas at Downton Abbey.”
The 45 track double album features 7 new recordings from “Downton Abbey” cast members as well as an extended holiday edition of the “Downton Abbey Theme” by composer John Lunn. The remainder of the disc is filled out with period appropriate Christmas hymns and holiday classics.
Not surprisingly, the best original tracks on the album are the two recorded by Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora on the show. Outside of her acting life as the Countess of Grantham and star of numerous movies, McGovern is a prolific musician, touring with her acclaimed folk band Sadie and the Hotheads. For this album, McGovern performs “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” as well as a duet of “The First Noel” with co-star Julian Ovenden, who plays Charles Blake. Ovenden, an accomplished professional singer in his own right, turns in solo versions of “O’ Holy Night”, “Sussex Carol”, and “Silent Night.” He also performs a duet with classical vocalist Katie Marshall on “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The other original recording from a cast member on “Christmas at Downton Abbey” is a spoken word piece by Jim Carter, who gets into his character of fan favorite Carson the Butler to recite the classic Christmas poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The booming voice that made him so popular on the show is put to good use here and the track is sure to be a standout for fans of the “downstairs” crew at Downton Abbey.
The remaining songs on “Christmas at Downton Abbey” are classic Christmas songs from Warner’s library. While the classic songs have nothing to do with the show, they serve a bigger purpose than album filler. Warner Brothers did a good job of sticking to both the period and tone of the show when selecting carols, giving listeners a peek into the songs the Grantham home might sing during the holidays. The best of the classic inclusions are the ones that we don’t see as often in America, such as “Good King Wenceslas”, “In the Bleak Midwinter”, and “The Holly and the Ivy.”
While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about “Christmas at Downton Abbey”, it should serve to please the show’s most ardent fanbase. While this could have easily served its purpose as a single album with a select few carols supplementing the “Downton Abbey” cast recordings, Warner Brothers has kept the price of the two disc collection near that of a single album so you’re essentially getting the classic carols for almost nothing.