Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Carol for Christmas II - Mary's Joy

By the 1870s the Oxford Movement had led to the establishment of Anglo-Catholicism, a branch of the Church of England which had revived and embraced many of the rites, rituals and worship practices, if not all of the dogma, of Catholicism.   In parishes such as mine in Toronto the traditional Anglican services of Matins and Evensong were no longer the centre of worship but the celebration of Mass was considered a daily duty of faith and on high holidays an act of obligation.  Easter and Christmas were the two major days of the Church year but many other feast days dotted the calendar  including those bearing the name of Mary.  Marian worship was not as strong as in the practices of our Roman neighbours however on special feast days the Angelus was rung and said and the Rosary was encouraged as a source of private meditation.

Christmas Carols New and Old was born out of the Protestant tradition of the established Anglican church of its period however the Reverend H. R. Bramely was known to be a disciple of the  Oxford Tracticians and a strong High Church man.  It is little wonder than that a Marian carol found its way, surreptitiously perhaps,  into that first series of carols published in 1871.

The Seven Joys of Mary were popular in the devotional and artistic life of Medieval parishes and religious houses so it seems only natural that it should have become a carol - in the old sense of the word - to be sung at festive occasions.  Though not originally meant specifically for Christmas its introduction into Bramely and Stainer's collection has led to it being consider appropriate for the season. Again it is not a carol that was or is sung in churches (to the more Protestant it smacked of "Popery", to the High Church it was perhaps too frivolous in melody to be comfortable amongst the smells and bells)  however it was often sung in homes and by carollers as the season approached.

For some reason this carol is very popular in Eastern Canada -  its jig like melody does have a bit of that down-East Callie mood to it.  I recall that Rita McNeil always included it in her Christmas concerts and the version I've chosen to post is by Great Big Sea from Newfoundland.  Their version conjures up thoughts of an extended family around the kitchen fire, eating and drinking and celebrating the season as a cold wind blows snow off the  North Atlantic.  It is rather amusing, and comfortable, to see that in this rendition from Newfoundland - and it appears that versions differ from region to region -   at least three of the things that gave the Holy Virgin pleasure in her son growing up were things that gave every good Christian mother joy.

Thought I don't believe in advertising on my blog I believe also that artists should get credit, and recompense, for their work, so I'll mention that this is from an album called Atlantic Standards and is available at iTunes.  There are some lovely and little known pieces on it that I'm happy to have in my Christmas collection.

17 dicembre/December - San Giovanni de Matha

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hey, love Great Big Sea's version! Thanks for introducing me to it! I've been listening to Loreena McKennitt's slower and more traditional version called "The Seven Rejoices of Mary" on her CD "A Midwinter Night's Dream."

Minnie said...

Ooh, fab reminder of the GBS - haven't heard 'em for years & love them. Also this carol. It's great that so many of the Advent carols sung at some Anglican churches are good, old Marian examples. Glad that my current one is of that persuasian (fear next one is - theatrical shudder - happy and ... will make me wish in most unChristian fashion to give them the, er, clap they so richly deserve).

lynette said...

I haven't heard this in a looooong time. Liking this carol retrospective.

wersgold said...
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