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What is a carol?

Richard Bridge 17 Dec 12 - 03:20 AM
Rumncoke 17 Dec 12 - 04:47 AM
MartinRyan 17 Dec 12 - 04:50 AM
Roger the Skiffler 17 Dec 12 - 05:08 AM
MartinRyan 17 Dec 12 - 05:13 AM
Charmion 17 Dec 12 - 05:37 AM
GUEST,leeneia 17 Dec 12 - 09:18 AM
banjoman 17 Dec 12 - 09:46 AM
GUEST,John Foxen 17 Dec 12 - 09:52 AM
Steve Gardham 17 Dec 12 - 03:22 PM
doc.tom 18 Dec 12 - 06:22 AM
Artful Codger 18 Dec 12 - 06:59 PM
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Subject: What is a carol?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 03:20 AM

This being the Mudcat I thought I ought to ask.

What is a carol?

My gut reaction is that "We 3 Kings" is, but "Jingle Bells" and "I'm dreaming of a white Xmas" are not. Christmas songs they may be, but carols no.

A first stab at a definition might involve both the seasonal celebration and some reference to a spiritual aspect (eg in Wenceslas, the references to his sainthood, and to Xtian men rejoicing would suffice).

I'd be tempted to add something reflecting the Karpeles definition, about transmission through time and the exclusion of composed commercial music adopted unaltered.

What set this off as a train of thought was looking on the internet for lists of carols as inspiration for a carolling evening's possible content - and seeing this list include, for example "Rocking around teh Xmas Tree" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christmas_carols.

On the other hand there is more of a consideration of what is or is not a carol here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_carol
and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_(music)

I haven't been to the Oxford Dictionary of Music yet - I may be back.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 04:47 AM

I think an older definition would include songs sung at Easter as well as Christmas.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 04:50 AM

Lots of earlier threads on this old (roasted) chestnut...

Click here for one.

Regards


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 05:08 AM

I've not been able t discover the technical difference between a Christmas Hymn & a carol. Even the local organist/choirmaster couldn't help. He tends to label "carol" those sung by the choir alone and "hymn" those sung by the congregation, even though I'd consider some of those carols as well.

RtS


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 05:13 AM

At this stage, the word has almost as many layers of meaning (and consequent potential for confusion) as "ballad". As with the latter, it doesn't matter much which you use provided both sides in a conversation/debate etc. realise it!

Regards


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: Charmion
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 05:37 AM

I would define a carol as either a traditional song on a religious subject, such as I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, or a composed song dealing with a religious subject in a traditionally folkloric fashion, such as Tchaikovsky's Crown of Roses or the Huron Carol by Jean de Brebeuf.

They usually focus on a feast, Christmas most of all but also Easter and Pentecost (Whitsun), becuase they are intended for secular use -- enjoyment in a social setting. If you would feel, um, normal singing it in the pub with a beer in your hand, it's a carol. If it seems more natural to sing it in church, it's a hymn.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 09:18 AM

I like your pub-related definition, Charmion.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: banjoman
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 09:46 AM

I was always led to believe that the term Carol came from france and was specifically about songs or dance which involved round singing or dancing.The term has now been adopted to refer to religious songs sung at christmas or easter.
Worth looking at the work ofthe late Rev. Kenneth Loveless who did some great talks on the subject.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 09:52 AM

Bonnie Shaljean should be able to put us right on French carols as she produced an album a few years back called -- if my memory serves me well -- Amid The Carol For To Dance. I've got a copy tucked away somewhere.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Dec 12 - 03:22 PM

Martin, as usual, has hit the nail on the head. Like most English words meanings/definitions change over time. The carol in its widest sense is one of Europe's oldest forms of poetry/song and most academics seem to think its form at least gave rise to the ballad form, both thought to have origins in the ring dance accompanied by song. As for hymn/carol there is absolutely no reason why the same song can't be a hymn in one context and a carol in another.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: doc.tom
Date: 18 Dec 12 - 06:22 AM

Then the robins so red, how quickly they sped
They opened their wide wings and over them spread
And all the day long in the branches did throng
They sweetly did CAROL and this was their song -
Pretty babes in the wood... etc.


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Subject: RE: What is a carol?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 18 Dec 12 - 06:59 PM

Um, that quoted bit is a much later corruption of "Babes in the Wood" (originally, there was one robin, he spread strawberry leaves, and he whistled plaintively; he was the branches among, they didn't throng), so your quote only illustrates broad, relatively modern usage. That said, I'm sure "carol" in the sense of birdsong or joyful singing also goes back quite a ways, probably even before "carol" became applied to the more lugubrious Christmas hymns.


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