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Your Favourite Carols


Alan Day
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I am this evening playing Carols on my concertina to accompany about fifty singers. This is a yearly event and we normally do the Twelve days of Christmas to finish the evening, where each verse is sung by a different group, who stand up when their turn comes to sing their selected verse.I take great delight on the twelth verse to double the speed and get them jumping up and down at speed.

My favourite carols however are the slow ones and in particular "In the bleak mid Winter" and " Silent Night" when sung well these are lovely to listen to and lovely to play.

Al

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Being a son of the steel city, there is nothing to compare with the village carols in Sheffield and North Derbyshire which are sung in various public houses across the area. Hard to pick just one as a favourite, but as a morris man one of the ones I like is "Sweet Bells" a version of "While Shepherds watched". Other firm favourites are the solos "Swaledale", "Mistletoe Bough" and "The Christmas Tree (Kris Kringle)". I know that the last one is actually an American song writtten by William Bradbury in the 1860s so more of you might be familar with that one.

 

Happy Caroling :-)

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Adam Lay Ybounden is marvellous too. And - the title eludes me at the moment - the one that has the line "most highly favoured Lady" in it, which every choir I've ever sung in has rendered as "most highly flavoured gravy".

 

And I know it's hackneyed, but I still think Hark the Herald is a wonderful tune - and I have a particular soft spot for it because The Fall recorded what can only be describd as a "left-field" rendition of it for a John Peel session about 10 years ago.

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Adam Lay Ybounden is marvellous too. And - the title eludes me at the moment - the one that has the line "most highly favoured Lady" in it, which every choir I've ever sung in has rendered as "most highly flavoured gravy".

 

And I know it's hackneyed, but I still think Hark the Herald is a wonderful tune - and I have a particular soft spot for it because The Fall recorded what can only be describd as a "left-field" rendition of it for a John Peel session about 10 years ago.

I know this as "Lullay, lullay"

Which (spelling aside) is the first line - I think it's also called the Coventry carol.

.. and yes, alas, I do sing "most highly flavoured gravy"

 

Chris

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Two different carols!

 

Coventry Carol is "Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny child".

The carol with "highly favored lady" is "The angel Gabriel from heaven came"

 

Both are beautiful!

 

I first picked up a concertina and began to play almost one year ago- Dec. 22- it happened to be my beloved's and my anniversary, and the first one since his death. Just a few days later I was able to squeak out Silent Night for my family.

 

This year I'm attempting:

Shepherds and Lasses Come Leaping and Dancing

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

The Cherry Tree Carol

 

...those are the ones I'm actually performing. I'm having fun with all kinds of obscure Christmas carols and tunes, having just acquired Elizabeth Poston's Penguin Book of Christmas Carols (and the Second of that name).

 

I'm an old sap, but I really really love the music of this time of year!

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Most nights during Advent, we light candles and sing Christmas songs, often with my accompaniment on concertina. "People Look East" is a favorite.

 

The mood is not always serious or reverent, however. My kids and I take mischievous pleasure in finding Christmas carols with similar meter, for which we can switch the words.

 

Try this: Sing the words of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to the tune of "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

 

And the reverse: sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

 

If there are visitors who reflexively know these carols, they might start singing along with us ... then at some point the puzzled look emerges. :lol:

 

Another one: sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to the tune of "The Holly and the Ivy."

 

Got the idea? Additional suggestions welcome!

Edited by Michael Reid
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Two different carols!

 

Coventry Carol is "Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny child".

The carol with "highly favored lady" is "The angel Gabriel from heaven came"

 

Both are beautiful!

It is also easy to confuse the Coventry Carol with other "lulling" carols, such as "Myn Lyking" (Lullay, my liking, my dear son, my sweeting, Lullay my dear son, mine own dear darling) and "Sing lullaby". For some reason I tend to mix up the latter with "The angel Gabriel", perhaps because they both have one-line refrains. "The angel Gabriel" is, I believe, a Basque carol.

 

The authentic Coventry carol has a mix of triple and duple timing - recent editors sometimes "regularise" it to triple time, which loses the character.

 

Of the above, I am particularly fond of "Myn Lyking", as set by Holst in the Oxford Carol Book.

 

There is a little known, beautiful, very early lulling carol on one of the Gothic Voices disks, in the style of a border ballad, which comes out something like:

 

Lullay, lullay, lay, lay, lullay, mi dere moder sing lullay.

 

Als I lay i yoolis nicht, alane in mi longing

Me thocht i saw a well fair sicht, a maid hir child lulling. Lullay &c.

 

Ic a moder, said the child, and tell what sall me befall

Hereafter whan i com till eld, for so doen moders all. Lullay &c.

 

and so on for about 20 verses

 

On the Gabriel theme, I adore "Angelus ad Virginem". It comes in versions with flattened or sharpened leading notes. I have no idea whether the flattened leading notes and mediaeval cadences are authentic, or whether they have put in by modern arrangers who are trying to make it sound more mediaeval, but I prefer it like that!

 

But my vote for my favourite carol has to be for "There is no rose of such virtue, as is the rose that bear Jesu, etc". All sorts of people (Britten etc) have written their own tune to these words, but there is an original mediaeval version, which I have in a little booklet of mediaeval carols edited by Denis Stevens.

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Try this: Sing the words of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to the tune of "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Another one: sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to the tune of "The Holly and the Ivy."

 

Got the idea?

This, of course, is the famous "One Song to the Tune of Another" game as played on the BBC radio game show "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", hosted by jazz legend Humphrey Lyttleton, which has now been running for 30 years or so. (This is the show where they also play the transport themed radio board game "Mornington Crescent", the rules of which are a closely guarded secret.)

 

As Michael implies, the underlying concept of the "One Song to the Tune of Another" game is exceptionally difficult to explain, but somehow people get the hang of it despite Hump's explanations.

 

Warning: don't listen to this show while driving. I know. I nearly had an accident when the (late lamented) Willie Rushton attempted to sing "I did it my way" to the tune of a George Formby song.

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I also like Sweet Bells as a version of While Shepherds, but like to swing the concertina during the chorus.

Another good tune for it is Shaw lane which is still used in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

From the other "Sheffield" Carols (several also known in Lancashire) I would pick Jacob's Well and Awake Arise, and there are not many to beat Old Foster.

From other sources I like Past Three O'Clock and The Apple Tree Carol

What I can't stand to listen to is Silent Night!

 

Robin Madge

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Just to say for those who are in the area, I'll probably be in the "Blue Ball" at Worrell on Sunday (12th) at lunchtime with my father, to join in with the singers. My first carolling visit since Boxing Day at Handsworth a couple of years ago.

 

Robin, I agree with you Jacob's Well is just wonderful. Let's hope it's included on Sunday.

 

all the best,

 

Peter

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I like the Holly and the Ivy version as sung by Steelye span,I prefer it to the more popular version,it is also a nice anglo tune.

I had a very lovely experience of playing concertina for my little Grandaughter, aged three, to sing Silent night and Merry Christmas.It is our first duet and I hope there will be many more.Even at this age she is singing in tune and recognising tunes.She gets bored pretty quickly however and suddenly says no more playing Badad.

Al :)

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