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Disappearing Carols

13 Dec 15 - 04:08 AM (#3758030)
Subject: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

I've just raised another thread about a carol, and that has spurred me into another moan about carols getting lost. Yes, a huge number we lost in the years after the publication of 'Hymns Ancient and Modern', but it is not those I am thinking of. There are carols that were quite common in my childhood and even only a decade or so ago, that I rarely hear now. For example, "See amid the Winter's snow" seems to have largely faded from the national repertoire in the UK: I can't think of a carol concert in the last ten years I've been to (apart from special folkie ones) where it has been sung.

What carols from your lifetime seem to be disappearing?

13 Dec 15 - 08:18 AM (#3758079)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,#


It is indeed a beautiful piece of music. Caroling itself--going from house to house--has largely disappeared in my part of Canada. I'm guessing you're in the UK. Do you think it could be that certain carols are disappearing and being replaced by others or that caroling itself is less common?

13 Dec 15 - 08:55 AM (#3758084)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST, topsie

The only carol singers that come to my door are occasional pairs of teenagers who only seem able to come up with a short burst of "We wish you a merry Christmas", and people shaking collecting buckets accompanied by a mechanised sleigh, with painfully loud, distorted recorded 'music' and 'Ho ho ho's.

13 Dec 15 - 09:13 AM (#3758087)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Miie Yates

Some carols have been on the edge of extinction for a long time already. Peter Kennedy recorded a version of the carol "Down in Yon Forest" from a singer in Derbyshire in the early 1950's. Is this still being sung traditionally in Derbyshire today? And what of "On Christmas Day" and "The Leaves of Life", both collected from the Shropshire gypsy May Bradley in the 1960's? Do any other traditional singers still know them?

13 Dec 15 - 09:33 AM (#3758093)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

Yes, I am in the uk.

We have few door to door carollers where I live now but a few years ago I used to go around with various groups. But I am thinking more of civil and church concerts and the like, and to me they seem to be drawing on a diminishing set of standards

13 Dec 15 - 09:57 AM (#3758095)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,#

Thank you, DMcG. The area I live in has two choirs, one amateur and the other mostly professional. I expect our songs/hymns would differ, but I will get the 'set' list fron the coming Christmas eve church service in which some carols will undoubtedly be included and post it to this thread. Interesting question. Once again, thanks.

13 Dec 15 - 01:59 PM (#3758140)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: cnd

When someone posted that link to the wax cylinder archive from California(?), I collected a list of carols I'd never heard of from there. Here's what I had

http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder7609 - Once in David's Royal City
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder0408 - Hail Hail Day of Days
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder8348 - Hail Smiling Morn
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder5371 - Ring Out Wild Bells
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder5651 - Victory
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder1752 - Angels from the Realms of Glory
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder7250 - Bells of Christmas
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder0231 - The Birthday of a King
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder3463 - Christ is Come
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder0311 - A Christmas Basket and Howdy Honey Howdy
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder6583 - Christmas Christmas Blessed Blesed Day
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder3729 - Christmas time Seems Years and Years Away
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder6169 - The Mistletoe Bough
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder2796 - Old Jim's Christmas Hymn
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder0421 - Ring the Bells for Christmas
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder5371 - Ring Out Wild Bells
http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder5808 - Song of Ages
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkBfdSbjXdY - While Shepherds Watch'd
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQjnEfIuzXk - You Must Think I'm Santa Clause

13 Dec 15 - 02:32 PM (#3758149)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Tradsinger

I guess that DMcG must be referring to what I would call conventional or community carols, such as would be sung in carol services (or played as supermarket musak), and I would not like to make any judgement on what is trending there. But othere contexts are available: there is of course the Sheffield pub carolling tradition which is very strong and here in Gloucestershire there is a group near Stroud that sings Sheffield carols every year.

There is also a strong movement in the folk world to seek out and perform folk carols. Where I live, in the north of Gloucestershire, we have a folk choir "Shepherds Crook" which specialises in locally-collected carols and thus we sing "The Cherry Tree Carol", "Hark, hark what news", "All Hail and Praise", a local version of "While Shepherds" and a wassail collected from the Brazil family. (We also throw in Good King Wenceslas and Ding Dong Merrily on High for good measure.)

May I add that Mrs Tradsinger and I give lots of talks/presentations every Christmas talking about local carols and wassails. So we are doing our best to keep these carols in circulation.

There are a large number of Christmas songs collected in Gloucestershire and there is a website to prove it. Have a look at http://www.gloschristmas.com/


13 Dec 15 - 02:58 PM (#3758154)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: FreddyHeadey

Fascinating set of recordings. Thanks

Here with blue clicky
  - Once in David's Royal City
- Hail Hail Day of Days
- Hail Smiling Morn
- Ring Out Wild Bells
- Victory
- Angels from the Realms of Glory
- Bells of Christmas
- The Birthday of a King
- Christ is Come
- A Christmas Basket and Howdy Honey Howdy
- Christmas Christmas Blessed Blesed Day
- Christmas time Seems Years and Years Away
- The Mistletoe Bough
- Old Jim's Christmas Hymn
- Ring the Bells for Christmas
- Ring Out Wild Bells
- Song of Ages
https://www.youtube- While Shepherds Watch'd
https://www.youtube - You Must Think I'm Santa Clause

13 Dec 15 - 04:22 PM (#3758175)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Noreen

Thanks very much, cnd and FreddyHeadey- fascinating recordings!

No information that I can see about the performers, though.

13 Dec 15 - 05:36 PM (#3758196)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

Yes, TradSinger, it is really the community carols I meant. While not exactly a definition, I mean the sort of carol that a leader could reasonably expect a good proportion of the non-folkie population to remember well enough to sing along to. I would guess at the moment in the UK that is less than 50, and heading towards twenty or so. Or if you want to put it the other way round, when a leader is trying to pick songs he anticipates people will join in with, how large is the choice?

In the folk world (even outside the wonderful Sheffield and Derbyshire traditions) and in specialised settings like West Gallery, it is of course very different and if anyone is prepared to look as far as even the Oxford book of Carols, there are a goodly number. They just seem to be sung less and less often.

The one exception I'd make is 'Infant lowly', which seems to be sung a lot more often than when I was younger.

13 Dec 15 - 05:44 PM (#3758200)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Paul Burke

The one exception I'd make is 'Infant lowly',
Is that the Chinese version of "Infant Lowry" that was sung in Salford by matchstick men?

13 Dec 15 - 06:29 PM (#3758211)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield

I suppose there are several different carol "traditions". The community carols that DMcG refers to, as well as the local carols that are familiar from the South Yorkshire and NE Derbyshire repertoires, plus similar carols to the latter in Odcombe, Padstow, and - in the past - many communities ... would be great for more people to dig these out. Then there's the so-called folk carols beloved by Sharp and RVW.

To reassure Mike Yates, Don in Yon Forest (collected by RVW in the early 20th century in Castleton) is still sung there ... I was in the pub in Castleton last Sunday for their annual village sing (now supported by a lot of people from outside Castleton) and it was sing - as was All in the Morning.


14 Dec 15 - 03:05 PM (#3758390)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Murpholly

Village life seems more conducive to carol singing than town life. We play and sing outside for the turning on of the village lights (luckily with gazebo although this year that did little for the wind blowing off the River Trent). We also play and sing carols at all the pub gigs we go to and some can be spectacular. Another village we visit we go from house to house singing. Unfortunately we always get invited in and drinks and eats forced upon us. Someone has to stay sober to drive home.

Down in Yon Forest was always an Easter Carol for us as was Hail Smiling Morn. We have some local to my birthplace including Carol, Carol Gaily and Christmas Bells are Ringing. Long may carols and wassailing continue.

14 Dec 15 - 04:08 PM (#3758405)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Keith A of Hertford

My generation (UK)learned carols at school.
Everyone knew the favourites.

All most people know now is just the lines, We wish you a merry Christmas X3 And a happy New Year.

I expect the atheists are delighted, but it is a great cultural loss.

14 Dec 15 - 04:35 PM (#3758411)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,#

"I expect the atheists are delighted, but it is a great cultural loss."

Then work harder and get your Christian friends to do the singing. That'll shut those atheists up.

14 Dec 15 - 04:44 PM (#3758414)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield

Murpholly: where are you referring to? And where was you birthplace?

15 Dec 15 - 04:54 AM (#3758490)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Murpholly

I am living in Owston Ferry North Lincs (Ferry Folk) and was born in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. Carol Gaily etc. come from the Thurnscoe area where strict Methodism ruled so no pubs - just chapels and halls and door to door especially the large number of relatives.

15 Dec 15 - 06:05 AM (#3758497)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Richard Mellish

It's interesting that those Edison recordings on the UCSB site include
Hail Smiling Morn and The Mistletoe Bough, the same two non-carols* that are still attached to the "Sheffield" traditions.

* Hail Smiling Morn has nothing whatsoever to do with either Christmas or Christianity. The story of The Mistletoe Bough starts at Christmas time but that is the extent of the connection.

15 Dec 15 - 11:03 AM (#3758559)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: JeffB

My Bristol-based (UK) choir keeps alive a number of West Country carols which, as far as we know, are seldom performed, if at all, by anyone else. In particular I will mention two wonderful Cheddar carols (Near Bethlehem and See the Angelic Host), and the joyously exciting Hark the Herald Angels from the village of Carlingcott (which may be seen on the old Folkinfo website). It used to be the tradition in St Ives (and I hope it still is)for the Primitive Methodist choir to process the streets on Christmas Eve singing local carols, among which was Lo, the Shepherds (Hellesveor). It is exquisite, and one of our favourites.

I feel that one reason carols such as these are so endangered is the conservatism of parish choirs. One choir leader in north Somerset absolutely refused to consider looking at our carols, another choir I know of split when some members wanted to try something different from the familiar mainstream carols. It might be useful if EFDSS could persuade the Royal School of Church Music to popularise some of our folk and WG carols. I'm sure they would become instant hits if they were heard in some of our cathedrals and Christmas major services.

Incidentally, I am an atheist; nevertheless I love our English carols and Christmas traditions. And at the risk of appearing to be a tedious pedant (umm .... guess I am), the Leaves of Life mentioned above is an Easter rather than a Christmas carol.

I will be happy to send copies of my choirs carols to anyone who cares to PM me.

Merry Xmas to all

15 Dec 15 - 11:13 AM (#3758561)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

We had a lovely community based carol session in the local park a couple of weeks back. Sadly it was p***ing down with rain so we all had to cram into the pavilion/cafe, with some lurking under the overhang for shelter! The local primary school led and sheets were handed out for the public to follow. A very pleasant 45 minutes. I can't remember them all but 'Silent Night', 'Away in a manger' and 'We wish you' (including the figgy pudding) were included.

While on the subject of carols (almost) I was very pleased to find that one of my daughters seems to have inherited my sense of humour. We were looking for some Christmas beers and upon not finding any she picked up three bottles of Adnams 'Ghost Ship'. With a grin she began to sing 'I saw three ships come sailing in...'

:D tG

15 Dec 15 - 04:37 PM (#3758632)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler

As an atheist I am delighted to sing carols, especially the Sheffield, Derbyshire and Rossendale ones.

No one seems to notice that one of the "Muzak" carols played over and over in the shops is an atheist carol, "I believe in Father Christmas". I presume that Greg Lake is an atheist in view of the line in another song that refers to religious belief " I need no crutch I am not lame".

15 Dec 15 - 05:01 PM (#3758637)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

Oooh - Interesting BBCW. I have a friend lives in Rossendale who would be interested in anything unusual like that. Has she missed it this year or is there something on between now and the big day? Had a quick Google but couldn't spot anything obvious.

15 Dec 15 - 07:09 PM (#3758660)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: JeffB

A friend has pointed out that Hellesveor is performed on You Tube by the Combined Chapel Choirs of St Ives. 'Hellesveor' - a traditional Cornish Carol.

15 Dec 15 - 07:31 PM (#3758665)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: FreddyHeadey

They carry on till just after Christmas. Very busy as the month goes on I gather.
Here is the diary for Derbyshire


If your friend likes unusual...
Does she go to watch the mummers?
Dec 20 Rossendale Mummers


15 Dec 15 - 09:30 PM (#3758678)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Joe Offer

DMcG makes mention above of "Infant Lowly." Dave, is that the Polish Carol, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly? The earliest English translation I've found is the 1921 rendition by Edith Margaret Gellibrand Reed. I don't know of any earlier.

I started playing it on my computer and my wife, whose first language was Polish, came right over. It's a lovely carol. Here's a recording: Since I made the excellent choice to marry a Polish woman (born in Rhode Island), I've been exposed to lots of wonderful Polish carols every Christmas. My wife and her mother used to sing snippets of carols to each other as the cooked up all sorts of Polish delicacies for Christmas. Alas, my mother-in-law died and my wife became a vegetarian. Polish carols and quinoa and kale just don't fit together.

My mother-in-law would have been 100 this year. She had hoped to be around to celebrate this year, but she died when she was 98. I still miss her. May she rest in peace.

Here's a playlist of Polish songs, mostly for Christmas:

16 Dec 15 - 03:07 AM (#3758695)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

Thanks Freddy - Yes, she would have liked that but I know she is at the same party as me elsewhere that day! Do you have any details of where and when the carols are sung and any info about what makes them specific Rossendale carols?

16 Dec 15 - 04:48 AM (#3758706)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Brian Peters

"Hail Smiling Morn has nothing whatsoever to do with either Christmas or Christianity."

Indeed not - it's a glee, and supposedly the most popular of the lot.

16 Dec 15 - 07:09 AM (#3758738)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,ada the cadre

This atheist folkie caroller will be attending her second of four "Christmas sings" in Cornwall this week, and there are many more. Going up country for Xmas itself so missing 4 Lanes Male voice choir leading whole village in a street sing on 25th.
But what I really want are lyrics to JOSEPH CAME TO SOMERSTOWN.
I have:

Joseph came to Somerstown , behind the Euston Road,
Evicted from his caravan, and now of no abode;
Mary sought a lodging there, shelter for her head,
But all the jostling houses could offer them no bed.

Stay! O stay! Good travellers all, for God is born a man
And lies wrapped in a tablecloth within a railway van.

So Mary came to Euston, where a porter found them room
In a shunted unused guard's van half shrouded in the gloom;
And there, with no possessions, no midwife standing by,
There rang throughout the station her newborn baby's cry.
Stay! O stay! Good travellers all, for God is born a man
And lies wrapped in a tablecloth within a railway van.

The porters came, and wished her luck and brought them cups of tea,
And as the rumour spread around, there came to platform three
The other weary travellers, who travelled on Christmas Day
And offered him a tribute, then turned and went their way.

Stay! O stay! Good travellers all, for God is born a man
And lies wrapped in a tablecloth within a railway van.

Bonus points for Author & title.

16 Dec 15 - 08:45 AM (#3758769)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: FreddyHeadey

Sorry DtG, I'd not heard of the Rossendale tradition.
Maybe Black belt caterpillar wrestler could furnish a bit more info.
Or check https://sites.google.com/site/larksofdean/Home 
They had a concert Dec 6th :(

There might be some more reading here

And the West Gallery diary might be worth watching next year.

16 Dec 15 - 12:26 PM (#3758818)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Pamela R

I'm doing my part to re-introduce the tradition of wassailing in the Southern CA city of San Diego, or at least in Mission Hills, the small neighborhood in which I live.

I grew up with a door-to-door caroling tradition in Buffalo, NY, where one could count on deep snow in December (at least for the 100+ years before this one). Being a member of both a church choir and a high school choir, I had many family and friends who knew by heart a number of traditional carols, in harmony. The church choir en masse went caroling every year, and my high school friends and I went around whenever we could scratch together one voice from every section.

In this somewhat atypical upbringing, I grew up with carols that included the hymnal standards, but also many I rarely hear anymore: Coventry Carol (my favorite carol), Gloucestershire Wassail, Here We Come A-Wassailing, Infant Holy Infant Lowly, The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night, Unto Us a Child is Born, Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel, What Child is This, Bring a Torch, Past Three O'Clock; and several sung in other languages: Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen, Il Et Ne le Divine Enfant, Adeste Fideles, Stille Nacht.

Now, I am an atheist gathering a group of mostly atheist, Buddhist and Jewish friends every year to sing songs about Christmas, surrounded by palm trees, to neighbors who apparently worship Santa Claus. I had to teach my friends most of the carols the first year, but now that we've been doing this for six years there's starting to be a core group who know them all. I take the host's prerogative to be a snob about the song selection. The only "pop" song I include is Jingle Bells. I include as many non-Christmas secular songs as I can: Gloucestershire wassail, Here we come a-wassailing, Deck the hall (singular!!), We Wish You a Merry Christmas (yes, with the figgy pudding), Good King Wenceslas, and I Heard the Bells. We go from porch to porch singing, and some people bring out candies or cookies to us, which keeps the little kids motivated!

To be a tedious pedant: "Good King Wenceslas" is not a Christmas song, it takes place on the Feast of Stephen which is on the 26th or 27th of December, and is a song about being charitable to the poor. Although "Christian men" appears in the final verse, at the time and place of its writing that would be considered a synonym for "moral men" and I translate the line "Therefore all good men be sure…".

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is also not a Christmas song, but an anti-war song from the American Civil War ("Then from each black, accursed mouth, the cannon thundered in the South, and with the sound the carols drowned of peace on earth, good-will to men"). It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a conscientious objector of the war, allegedly in response to his son defying him to join the Union army.

Finally, although it is not suited for caroling, the first song I sing in any song circle or open mic I attend in December is "A Silent Night", Cormac MacConnel's song about the 1914 Christmas truce.

Merry Christmas all.

16 Dec 15 - 12:28 PM (#3758821)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Pamela R

P.S. if any Mudcatters are in striking distance of San Diego, give me a shout and I'll be glad to send you an invitation to our wassail!

16 Dec 15 - 01:22 PM (#3758835)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler

The Larks of Dean Quire have a great deal of material to work with from the manuscripts of the original "Larks". This includes carols as well as the day to day hymns. Some of these are very similar to the ones in the Sheffield tradition and others not.
I would not call it a living tradition but we do perform concerts and include carols in the correct season!

One thing that I have noticed is that the "Mortals awake" set of lyrics do not seem to feature that strongly in the Sheffield tradition, but does in Lancashire.

16 Dec 15 - 07:00 PM (#3758907)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Noreen

Thanks for sharing what you are doing in Mission Hills, Pamela R. It's a great thing you are doing to keep spreading the traditions, the singing and the wonderful music.

You'd love to witness the Yorkshire Carols still being sung in village pubs around Sheffield (mostly in 4part harmony!) which I took part in last weekend.
(Some are available to experience on YouTube.)

As you are happy to be a tedious pedant, let me pedantically point out that "Oh Come Emmanuel" is not a Christmas Carol, but a hymn for Advent :)

16 Dec 15 - 09:04 PM (#3758922)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Pamela R

Regarding "O come, o come, Emmanuel" being an Advent carol:
Quite so. Glad to stand corrected!

17 Dec 15 - 06:11 AM (#3758983)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Hrothgar

Christmas carols sung at my place last Saturday night:

Angels We Have Heard on High
Away in a Manger
The Boar's Head Carol
The Borning Day
The Carol of the Birds
Cherry Tree Carol
Coventry Carol
Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly
The First Noel
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
Good King Wenceslas
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The Holly and the Ivy
Joy to the World
Mary's Boy Child
North Wind
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Once in Royal David's City
Shepherds Arise
Silent Night, Holy Night
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Wassail Song
We Three Kings of Orient Are
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
What Child is This?
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

We actually had about four different versions of "While Shepherds watched .." as we had someone who taught us several different South Yorkshire versions, with differing, though similar choruses.

If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably come down to "O Come, All Ye Faithful' or "Silent Night"

17 Dec 15 - 06:21 AM (#3758991)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

At the carol concert I mentioned earlier my wife and sister-in-law insisted on singing the Latin version of 'Oh come all ye faithful' (Adeste Fideles) much to the confusion of those nearby. Glad I was gentleman enough to stand outside and pretend I was not with them :-)

17 Dec 15 - 07:46 AM (#3759015)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Mo the caller

Yes I learnt Adeste Fideles at school. And each year we learnt one French carol. We had a few carols mixed with the tunes in the pub at Kelsall last night - concert then session. The Time Bandits sang Pat-a-pan in English which didn't sound right at all.

17 Dec 15 - 09:31 AM (#3759048)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Airymouse

As usual I wander OFF TOPIC. Gresham's Law, which was first stated by Regiomantus (1436-1476), states that bad coin drives out good coin from circulation. This law is usually thought of as a law of economics, but it works for Christmas music too. With the possible exception of "Good King Wenceslas," which pushed out "Spring has now unwrapped her flowers," there is no point in listing the bad Christmas songs. Here are a few of the good songs that got driven out of circulation at least in the states:
There are angels hovering round
Wind through the olive trees
The holly bears a berry
Christ was born in Bethlehem
Brightest and best of the suns of the morning
I saw three ships come sailin' in
The Cradle hymn (Isaac Watts), with careful editing to avoid among other things an ugly antisemetic verse
Lo how a rose ere blooming

17 Dec 15 - 02:12 PM (#3759099)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

While wandering off topic... :-) Apropos an earlier comment, I am an atheist and I love Christmas carols along with many other 'sacred songs'. Anyone else? Enjoyment of the music does not mean you have to buy into the beliefs attached.

17 Dec 15 - 04:03 PM (#3759118)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Joe Offer

I think "Adeste Fideles" may be better-known in the United States. Bing Crosby recorded it.

I've always thought of "Hail, Smiling Morn" as a secular carol. It's one that can be sung by a caroling group, and it carries no particular ideology, agenda, or seasonal connotation.


18 Dec 15 - 10:21 AM (#3759303)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Ged Fox

Not all lost, DMcG. "See amid the winter's snow" featured in our local Morris side's Christmas Sing yesterday.

18 Dec 15 - 11:07 AM (#3759326)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Airymouse

"I am an atheist and I love Christmas carols along with many other 'sacred songs'. Anyone else? Enjoyment of the music does not mean you have to buy into the beliefs attached."
It's a two-edged sword. I would guess that most devout Christians do not buy into the text of the Cherry Tree Carol and only Universalists accept the view expressed from the 2nd verse of Brightest and Best:
    Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining
    Lo lies His head with the beasts of the stall
    Angels adore Him in splendor reclining
    Maker and monarch and SAVIOR OF ALL.
And then there's the beautiful music of Mozart that accompanies a text about the blood dripping down his pierced sides.

19 Dec 15 - 03:23 AM (#3759529)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

Thanks for all the comments. Yes, Joe, it was the Polish carol I was referring to.

Last night at our folk club we had the Christmas do, where we have a booklet someone put together maybe 15 years of 19 "standards" and in the Singaround people have a choice of singing anything they like or picking one from the booklet. There are a number of people who never sing (typically partners of someone who does) and it gives them some involvement.

Of the 19' I'd say ten are 'division one' (Slient Night, Hark the Herald Angels, While Shepherds watched ...) and the others are getting to be a bit rarer in the UK (Rocking, ding dong merrily, ..) though still generally known.

I can take Keith's point for civic carols: even though I think all of the atheists above have said they are quite happy singing carols, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to think of someone organising a civil event who would prefer to move things to Christmas songs away from carols. However, that's a bt too easy an explanation, since in my experience Church carol concerts also draw from an increasingly restricted set.

It is good to hear that people are striving to prevent this fading, and I am sure we folkies and west galleria types do more than most to do that. But I bet most of us can think of carols we used to sing in school, churches, carol concerts and the like that we haven't sung for ten years outside folk settings.

I mentioned "The snow lay on the ground". Here's a few more I haven't sung in church or carol concert for a decade or two

Adeste Fidelis (in Latin)
In Dulce Jubilo
O little town of Bethlehem
It came upon the midnight clear
Past three o'clock
God rest you merry, Gentlemen

Now, moving outside the carols I was really talking about, some of my favourites are "peace O'er the Earth", "Diadem", "Nowel and Nowel", "Sound, sound your instruments of joy (Seraphic Minstels)", "Fum, Fum Fum!" , "Brightest and Best" .. Oh, too many to name

19 Dec 15 - 03:44 AM (#3759535)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Joe Offer

I dunno, Airymouse. I'm a seminary-trained Catholic and I have no problem with "Cherry Tree Carol," not that I take it (or the Bible) literally. It's a good story with a good lesson. It's meant to be a fable, I think.

I have no problem with "Brightest and Best," either, although I thought the "savior of all" thing was more-or-less standard Christian doctrine.

I think most middle-of-the-road and liberal Christians would appreciate both songs and have no problem with either one whatsoever. For a lot of religious people, religion isn't about who's right and who's wrong. There are better things to do with life than squabbling about such things.

Better just to sing the songs and enjoy them.


19 Dec 15 - 07:46 AM (#3759592)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,adathecadre

What tune do you sing to While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks? There are lots. I have been told that was the only carol allowed (presumably by the C of E) in the C18th, so different places set their own tunes to it. When I arrived in Cornwall I heard two versions that were unfamiliar to this Londoner. Last week at a Christmas sing in Frogpool the words were sung at different points to three tunes, one version has a chorus about Chiming Christmas Bells.

19 Dec 15 - 07:54 AM (#3759594)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

I know about 6 tunes for "While Shepherds watched" well enough to sing from cold, around 20 more I can when reminded of them and there's perhaps another 20 I've heard once or twice that I would need to actively learn to the tune for.

Last weekend I was told by a West Gallery leader of 156, but I'm not sure if that means he actually has 156, or 156 he knows of. He also said that the tune commonly used (Winchester Old) was picked specifically because it was not used by any locality.

19 Dec 15 - 07:57 AM (#3759595)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Dave the Gnome

It fits very well to the tune of On Ilkley moor baht'at. Honest!

19 Dec 15 - 07:57 AM (#3759596)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

adathecadre : That version is almost certainly 'Sweet Chiming Bells' (one of my six!)

19 Dec 15 - 11:24 AM (#3759628)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: FreddyHeadey

That's officially called Cranbrook.
Here is a flash mob doing it.
You can skip to 2:00

While Shepherds Watched (Cranbrook) ... Andover Singers Chantry Centre 10 December 2011  

19 Dec 15 - 12:27 PM (#3759648)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Airymouse

You are right Joe: I have overstated my case. It comes from living in the Bible belt. My last speeding ticket was in Augusta County, where, as you have perhaps heard, they shut down the schools over a bit of calligraphy. So I revise my statement by replacing "most" by "some." I think I can verify my new statement with examples right here in VA.

19 Dec 15 - 12:30 PM (#3759650)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Noreen

Thanks for that link, FreddyHeadey.
Nice surprise to see our lovely Sarah Morgan starting it off!

DtG: Cranbrook was used as a tune for WSW for over a century before it was taken for Ilkley Moor, in fact it was the most commonly used tune for WSW until 'Winchester Old' was popularised by Hymns Ancient and Modern from 1861.

('Winchester Old' was chosen apparently because nobody sang it- i.e. it wasn't specifically tied to any particular place.)

19 Dec 15 - 12:32 PM (#3759653)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Noreen

See Steve Gardham's post from a few years ago, here on Mudcat:

RE: While Shepherds Watched/Ilkley Moor

19 Dec 15 - 02:44 PM (#3759698)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Arkie

Airymouse and Joe, I studied at a Methodist Seminary and also have no problem with the "Cherry Tree Carol". According to what I have read concerning the carol, it goes back to the 15 century and comes from a tradition of writings that were considered 'useful' but not divinely inspired.

19 Dec 15 - 10:56 PM (#3759785)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Joe Offer

Many of those "disappearing carols" were recorded in fine fashion by Nowell Sing We Clear, John Roberts (Mudcat's "Anglo"), Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, and Andy Davis. They have retired from public performance, but their recordings will live on and on.

Here's a selection of their music:



20 Dec 15 - 03:12 AM (#3759812)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: DMcG

A bit annoyingly those videos show a 'blocked in country' when you try to play them from the UK. You can see the titles but that is all. Shame.

20 Dec 15 - 05:08 AM (#3759834)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: FreddyHeadey

Yet surprisingly lots of their tracks are on Spotify, if you can stand the odd advert
Spotify.. +Nowell+Sing+We+Clear  

If you Google the group quite a few tracks seem to be available, I've only looked at a couple.

~~~   footer, not just because it's Christmas .... I hope we're going to concerts and buying CDs too ~~~ !

21 Dec 15 - 04:39 AM (#3760027)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: JHW

We once sang a 'Shepherds Watched' in far chamber of the Blue John cave at Castleton
and departed from the cave whilst singing...

21 Dec 15 - 05:16 AM (#3760030)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler

Before John Kirkpatrick performed at the Barlow last Friday we had carols and mince pies in the bar using a set of carol booklets to help the audience, and I was delegated to supply the instrumental lead. I was surprised to find that no-one there new the carol "Of the father's love begotten" which I remember as being sung quite often when I was a boy in Somerset. Is this a north south divide thing?

My favourite carol for this year has been the Derbyshire one "On the dew besprinkled lawn".

21 Dec 15 - 06:00 PM (#3760133)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Peter from seven stars link

Agree with joe, airy mouse that ...saviour of all ...is pretty mainstream theology. Only hardcore Calvinists might quibble , I think. This is because he is potentially the eternal saviour of all, and is actually saviour providentially of all in the here and now world.   I don't actually know the carol but that verse is lovely poetry, so I shall look it up . Cheers.

22 Dec 15 - 11:05 AM (#3760276)
Subject: RE: Disappearing Carols
From: GUEST,Dave

BBCW, "Of the father's love begotten" is one of my favourite carols, and I was surprised that in my (reasonably northern) church, few seemed to know it. Some think its new, when of course the melody goes back at least to Piae Cantiones, and the words are a Victorian translation of 4th/5th century latin. Its about the oldest song in most hymn books. It could be a north/south thing though, because we used to sing it a lot in Canberra.