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Origins: Carols

Tootler 18 Dec 11 - 02:33 PM
Paul Burke 18 Dec 11 - 02:45 PM
Tootler 18 Dec 11 - 05:25 PM
Tootler 20 Dec 11 - 11:31 AM
giles earle 20 Dec 11 - 12:03 PM
Artful Codger 20 Dec 11 - 01:19 PM
giles earle 20 Dec 11 - 03:43 PM
giles earle 20 Dec 11 - 03:46 PM
GUEST,cats cookie less sorry 20 Dec 11 - 07:28 PM
Artful Codger 21 Dec 11 - 12:24 AM
Joe Offer 21 Dec 11 - 03:32 AM
Keith A of Hertford 21 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 21 Dec 11 - 10:19 AM
giles earle 21 Dec 11 - 10:54 AM
Artful Codger 21 Dec 11 - 12:04 PM
Tootler 21 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM
Tootler 21 Dec 11 - 12:14 PM
giles earle 21 Dec 11 - 12:17 PM
giles earle 21 Dec 11 - 12:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Dec 11 - 12:22 PM
giles earle 21 Dec 11 - 12:25 PM
Little Robyn 21 Dec 11 - 02:13 PM
Tootler 21 Dec 11 - 06:51 PM
Jim Martin 21 Dec 11 - 10:06 PM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 22 Dec 11 - 07:24 AM
greg stephens 22 Dec 11 - 07:37 AM
Richard Bridge 17 Dec 12 - 06:54 AM
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Subject: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 02:33 PM

I've long been curious about the origins of Christmas Carols and recently did a trawl of the internet to see what I could find.

As usual, there was a lot of garbage, but the summary below is of the main points I have so far gathered.

From the French "caroler" in turn from the Latin 'choraula', from the Greek 'choraules', meaning a flute player for chorus dancing and ultimately derived from the Greek word 'choros' which was originally a circling dance. It is suggested that the French word "caroler" referred to a circle dance accompanied by singing.

Early carols were not specific to Christmas nor sung in Church but often had religious/semi mythical themes. Others were more down to earth and are now known as "wassailing" songs. Most had dance like tunes.

A number of early English carols survived in 15th cent. Manuscripts

Carol singing was banned by the Puritans who felt Christmas should be a solemn day.

Although no longer sung in public it seems likely that carols went "underground" and were still sung in private gatherings. Some carols in fact survived in the oral tradition and were rediscovered by late 19th. Century folk song collectors.

The revival of carols and the writing of new carols began in the mid 18th. Century but really "took off" in the mid 19th. Century. However the singing of carols in church only started in 1881 when the Bishop of Truro initiated the first service of nine lessons and carols.

To what extent did carols remain in the oral tradition after the ban by the Puritans in the mid 17th. Century and to what extent were the old carols we sing today the result of rediscovery in manuscript form by the Victorians?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Paul Burke
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 02:45 PM

Don't forget that Puritan bans were often pretty ineffective (Playford published slap in the middle of the Puritan heyday), and even if they had a sympathetic vicar, they couldn't easily control the pub or private houses unless the squire was of like mind. 1881 sounds like Oxford Movement to me-.

As for the carols we sing today, I think they are nearly all Victorian fabrications under the influence of Albert Victoria Dickens, especially the nutty Good King Wenceslas.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 05:25 PM

I appreciate when Playford was first published but the Puritans' ban on Carol singing was specifically related to the singing of carols in public as they felt they were ungodly dealing, as many did with aspects of the Christian religion which the Puritans felt were heretical or demeaning.

Dancing as such was never actually banned and Playford would not have been able to publish if it was as all publications had to have the approval of the Stationer's company, who acted as official censor.

If you had read my initial post properly you would have realised that I am already aware of the other points you made.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 11:31 AM

Surely there must be more folk interested in the story of carols


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 12:03 PM

Surely there must be more folk interested in the story of carols

Well, yes --- in my case very interested but pig-ignorant! My two-pennyworth on medieval carols being that the standard form in England was refrain-verse-refrain-verse-refrain (etc .... quite long, some of them!), the verses having four lines and the refrain two. Oh, and the tune is 'at the bottom', in the tenor (hence the name), with the contra-tenor singing ornamental wiggly bits above. Does anyone know if this English form derives directly from the requirements of the dance-form?

And was there any particular reason why, when the refrains developed from two- to three-part writing, the verses tended to remain for two voices only? Going off at a related tangent, I notice that the normal 'third' part in the refrain of There is no rose of such virtue is actually an editorial addition by the late Professor John Stevens. I haven't gathered whether he was trying to reconstruct something for which specific evidence exists, or was simply making an academic point by writing in what he thought should be done with the song. Anyone know?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Artful Codger
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 01:19 PM

In The New Oxford Book of Carols (#28, "Ther is no rose of swych vertu"), the editors first state that the middle line that they print in the refrain is one that they added "of a kind that might have been improvised." The implication is that the original 15th c. manuscript included only two voices for all sections. They also discuss the origin of the Latin phrases at the end of each verse: the first three are from the sequence "Letabundus"; the fourth perhaps from the Christmastide office antiphon "Gaudeamus, omens fideles: Salvator noster natus est in mundum", and the last "Transeamus" is the first word of the shepherds' response to the angels' "Gloria in excelsis". They make no mention of any interpolation by Prof. John Stevens; but perhaps the version you speak of is longer than the versions I've always seen.

Since we're on the subject, they also note that the use of the first verse as a refrain, as in this song, is unusual in a carol.

As far as the origins of carols, whole books have been written on the subject--a number of them available for free at Google Books, and others at least previewable. But I must confess, for all the grubbing about I've done to find unusual carols (i.e. delightful ones which nevertheless haven't been done to death, at least in America), I've not yet read any of these books cover to cover, so don't really feel qualified to comment much on carol origins in general. It's only when one gets to more specific examples (as with TINR) that I can offer some useful remarks. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 03:43 PM

It's that added middle line in the refrain, that is the interpolation I was on about!

The addded line in The New Oxford Book of Carols is the same as John Stevens' in Musica Britannica aside from OBC's having two sharps (the first mandatory, the second a suggested ficta) where MB has naturals.   The notes in OBC suggest the line has been printed for purposes of making an academic point, albeit one founded in knowledge of historic practice. Not mandatory in performance, then, but purely a suggestion by the editor(s).

I have, in fact, performed the carol several times with just two voices throughout, and I think it works splendidly in that more stark guise.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 03:46 PM

PS - forgot to say: thank you for pointing me at the useful notes in The Oxford Book of Carols.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: GUEST,cats cookie less sorry
Date: 20 Dec 11 - 07:28 PM

http://www.villagecarols.org.uk/index.htm
Check out this page. It might help. Ian is a world authority on Village carols.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:24 AM

Er, just to avoid confusion I was referring to The New Oxford Book of Carols (Keyte and Parrott, 1992), which is a separate collection of carols from The Oxford Book of Carols (Dearmer & RVW, 1928). And to complicate matters still, there are several focused editions of each work. You obviously understood me, but others might get confused.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 03:32 AM

I would have a hard time deciding which I like better, the Oxford Book of Carols, or the New Oxford Book of Carols. I think I prefer the selection of songs in the earlier book because it has many more songs I would be likely to sing. The new book has such fascinating notes, that it can keep me reading for hours. Guess it's a good thing I have both.
I bought the paperback New Oxford Book of Carols from Amazon for $35 in 2009, and I see Amazon now wants $96 for the same book. The earlier Oxford Book of Carols is available for $50. I wonder why the price of the new book went up so high.

I've found that the Hymns and Carols of Christmas Website is an excellent resource for research on carols.

I'm the emcee and director for our church caroling group. We hit 11 nursing homes this year, singing for about half an hour at each. I'ts a lot of fun and our audiences really enjoy it, but we've been singing the same set of carols for six years not. One of the parish staff members schedules the concerts and provides the song sheets, and she's quite reluctant to allow new songs. I do sneak one in here and there that isn't on the program. Artful Codger's right about some carols being "done to death" in the U.S. Most of the carols we sing come from the 19th century. I was surprised to find that even Adeste Fideles is relatively recent - the Latin from the 1740s and the English from the 1840s, I understand.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM

It is good to keep current the carols that were not put into the hymnal when carols came into church.
The Cherry Tree Carrol is one I like to do at this time.
Also the St.Day carrol.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 10:19 AM

As far as I know the oldest carols that I sing are "Adam lay ybounden" and perhaps "Down in yon forest". Anyone know the date of the origins of these two?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 10:54 AM

The text of Adam lay ybounden is in the Sloane Manuscript in the British Library (MS 2593), which dates from the early 15th century. It has been suggested that the songs in the MS may be somewhat earlier in date than c.1400(-ish), and were possibly originally sung in Warwickshire mystery plays.

As far as I am aware, there are no surviving medieval settings of Adam lay ybounden; there are, of course, several 20th century settings by English composers.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Artful Codger
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:04 PM

The NOBC was intended as a supplement to the OBC, rather than a replacement of it, as the editors are quick to point out; where there is overlap between the two, the NOBC tends to supply variants of the standard carols, or well-needed commentary, whereas the OBC included few variants of a carol--only primary versions--and supplied scanty notes.

I prefer the NOBC as having carols that are more off the beaten track. The initial carols, due to their antiquity, free rhythms and fugal arrangements, may be less suitable for garden-variety caroling, but the bulk of the book contains many delightful carols--when I come across a "new" carol (new to me), I'm surprised at how often I find it lurking in the NOBC. Having made a sweep through the OBC, it was soon clear to me that most carols unfamiliar to me had such dishwater-dull tunes, it was no surprise they weren't performed more often. The variants in the NOBC are generally superior in this respect.

This is not to demean the efforts of Dearmer et al., since they were only providing the carols as they came to them (arrangement aside). Much worse for dull tunes are some of the older collections, like the Stainer and Cowley collections. It's curious how so many supposedly inspired people have written such dreadfully uninspiring tunes!


Adam lay ybounden: Per the NOBC the text is from a 15th c. manuscript (the Sloan Manuscript, in the British Library, MS 2593), which also contained the text of "Lullay, my liking (myn lyking)". [Per the Wikipedia article on this song, the BL estimates the text origin at ca. 1400] No setting from that period, or, apparently, from the ages in between, has survived; the popular settings are all at least 20th c. That in the OBC was written by Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine). [My notes don't include a date, but the publication of the OBC makes it no later than 1928. A couple of Warlock's carol settings are now in the public domain (at least, in the US), having been published before 1923.]

The Wikipedia article contains additional illumination:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_lay_ybounden

There's already a thread on "Down in Yon Forest" with good information. As for age, it depends whether you're talking about the "Corpus Christi" carol or the version John Jacob Niles collected, (re)arranged and copyrighted in 1935. The former goes back to the Renaissance. For more information, I defer to other threads, primarily this one:
Lyr Req: Down in Yon Forest (from John Jacob Niles): http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=10671


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM

Down in Yon Forest in the modern form was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in Derbyshire in 1908. The earliest known version dates from the early 15th century (ca. 1504) is known as the Corpus Christi Carol because of the reference to Corpus Christi in the last verse. It does not have a specific Christmas reference, though.

There is a 16th century version which is apparently closer to the modern version but I haven't seen a copy of it.

John Jacob Niles collected a similar version to the Derbyshire one in N. Carolina. Both can be found at folkinfo.org

I copied the words of the Corpus Christi Carol from Wikipedia. (The Wikipedia article did not add very much else)

Lulley, lully, lulley, lully,
The faucon hath born my mak away.


He bare hym up, he bare hym down,
He bare hym into an orchard brown.

In that orchard ther was an hall,
That was hanged with purpill and pall.

And in that hall ther was a bede,
Hit was hangid with gold so rede.

And yn that bede ther lythe a knyght,
His wowndes bledyng day and nyght.

By that bedes side ther kneleth a may,
And she wepeth both nyght and day.

And by that bedes side ther stondith a ston,
"Corpus Christi" wretyn theron.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:14 PM

AC, it looks like we crossed.

I have just put my own version of Down in Yon Forest on You Tube here


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:17 PM

The 1504 source of the Corpus Christi Carol, mentioned by Tootler above, is the commonplace book of Richard Hill, an apprentice grocer in London. (Balliol College MS 354).

There have been numerous attempts to unravel the full meaning of the text, with theories ranging from Holy Grail legends and the Passion of Christ, to covert messages denouncing Henry VIII's reform of the English church and expressing sympathy for the plight of Catherine of Aragon.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:21 PM

Adam lay ybounden: …in the OBC was written by Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine). [My notes don't include a date, but the publication of the OBC makes it no later than 1928.

According to A Peter Warlock Handbook,Warlock wrote this in 1922


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:22 PM

It'd have been a bit premature to produce a text in 1504 commenting on Henry VIII marital manoeuvrings thirty years later...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: giles earle
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 12:25 PM

Well, quite, but that was the theory. I've seen the commonplace book dated for '1504 to 1535', though, which would (just!) get round the problem.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Little Robyn
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 02:13 PM

Padstow Carols are different from the usual wellknown Christmas carols. Cats knows more than I do because she's one of the carollers.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Tootler
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 06:51 PM

The thread Little Robyn linked to above implies there was little published between the few Christmas hymns in the original Hymns A & M in 1861 and the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.

In fact there were a considerable number of books of Carols published on both sides of the Atlantic during much of the 19th and early 20th century.

The website Hymns and Carols of Christmas has a list. Follow the link and scroll down to see it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Jim Martin
Date: 21 Dec 11 - 10:06 PM

The Czech history of karols is very interesting:

http://www.radio.cz/en/section/special/czech-carols-from-christmas-past-and-present


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 07:24 AM

Ive just found out that the words of "Peace O'er the World" (the eyeballs carol) are from the middle of the 1712 poem "Messiah" by Alexander Pope. I note that there is a version of the carol from Lancashire known as "Messiah".
Interesting that no more of the original words were used as they seem to be appropriate.

It is interesting that the phrase "from thick films shall purge the visual ray" seems to me to imply the old belief that the eyes sent out rays to achieve vision. In other words "remove cataracts so that the visual ray can get out of the eyes".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: greg stephens
Date: 22 Dec 11 - 07:37 AM

On a total digression, Peter Warlock was recently revealed as the father of Brian "Mr Enunciation" Sewell.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Carols
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 06:54 AM

Hmm, yes, I totally missed this thread, thinking the title meant it was about origin only.


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