The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #116825   Message #2510906
Posted By: Haruo
09-Dec-08 - 02:00 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Sullivan's NOEL hymn tune
Subject: Lyr Req: Sullivan's «NOEL» hymn tune
I am well familiar with Ralph Vaughan Williams' arrangements of Star of the County Down in its English Dives and Lazarus variant as the hymn tune KINGSFOLD, and of The Ploughboy's Dream as FOREST GREEN, but I have not been able to identify the English traditional tune, or rather the traditional text sung to the tune, that Sir Arthur Sullivan arranged a few decades earlier as NOEL. This tune is not nearly as ubiquitous in the hymnals as are KINGSFOLD and FOREST GREEN, but it is the second most common setting for "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", occurring in my experience in roughly one hymnal for every fifteen that have it set to Richard Willis's CAROL. The setting seems a bit more common in Anglicanism than elsewhere.

Oddly, although the tune is most often met with in a Christmas carol, it appears that Sullivan didn't mean it that way; rather, the tune name apparently alludes to the Anglican clerical poet Gerard Noel, author of "If Human Kindness Meets Return". also gives it as a tune for "A thousand years have come and gone" and "I will extol thee, O my God", and I have hymnals that set "For ages women hoped and prayed" (Worship & Rejoice), "I know not where the road will lead" (The Worshiping Church), and "O God in whom all life begins" (New Century Hymnal) to it.

So anyway, the question is what it was/is in the folk tradition before Sullivan gussied it up or dumbed it down and used it for hymnody.