AS it is some years since Father Christmas or Harry Potter were big round my way, I am no longer very sure about this being a “magical” time of the year, although I recognise that grumpy old anti-magic bloke will go back in his box if and when granduncle or grandparent status comes my way.

What is never beyond experience is that Christmas is a wonderfully musical time of the year, and that truth goes beyond the predictable loop of Yuletide pop hits playing in shopping malls. Those are, in fact, now the least of it.

When I think back to the Christmases of my childhood – from which many of those pop hits persist – they were the dominant thing, and the race to the top of the hit parade and the crown of Christmas Number One on Top of the Pops was an important, and potentially hugely rewarding, story.

Nick Hornby’s book About A Boy, and the hit film adaptation of it with Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult, depends on the idea of slacker Will not having to work because his father penned a single perennially-lucrative Christmas hit – and that device now immediately dates Hornby’s plot.

Although Noddy Holder of Slade and Wizzard’s Roy Wood still receive chunky royalty cheques, Brazilian composer/producer Walter “Baby Love” Afanasieff – an exact contemporary of myself – may well be the last man to be annually coining it in, thanks to his 1994 tunecraft on Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You.

But my own back pages are about so much more than the pop hits that have, perhaps surprisingly, stood the test of time. Because my father sang in a choir, I was at performances of Handel’s Messiah when still in short pants, and I am not in the least troubled to be at three more this festive season.

There is a great joy in hearing a huge piece of music that you know intimately because you have heard it well over 50 times. As you may have read this week, Bearsden Choir (first of the three for me) celebrated its Golden Jubilee by singing Messiah in Glasgow’s City Hall, it being the work the chorus was created to perform 50 years ago. The event may now be remembered for the soprano passing out during her first aria, but the fact that it was award-winning choral conductor Andrew Nunn’s accomplished first tilt at the work was at least as worthy of note.

Messiah is far from being the only choir masterwork now regularly given an airing by professional and amateur singers, and the few carols that most people can sing are now joined by classic melodies from early music that were once the realm of a few specialists, as well as newer compositions.

I have been pleasantly surprised to hear The Voice of the Angel Gabriel, composed by former Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama principal Philip Ledger, more than once on different radio stations in the past week, for example. If the latest pop hits no longer shift the huge volumes of copies they did in the hey-day of the 45rpm single, it is partly because the taste of the public has broadened at least as interestingly as the variety of formats in which music is supplied.

When my flat-mate and I chose to mark the season with a party on Frank Sinatra’s birthday back in the 1980s, a fondness for his music was almost exotic among our generation. Now the American songbook is another staple of this season that all ages know. If you want to hear it sung well, I recommend the recently issued One Night Only live double album by Gregory Porter, and his television special on BBC2 on the evening of Christmas Day.

The 21st century solstice really is the most musical time of the year.