|After having heard the news the Shepherds carol the birth|
of the Christ Child in this 12th century manuscript.
In France they became the folk-like noels heard in Provence and the countryside eventually finding their way in the 16th century into the music of Charpentier, Campra and other courtly composers. In Germany the Lutheran church encouraged music at Christmas and Luther himself wrote several carols for use at Christmastide. In England many of the carols were written to be sung outside the church as bands of carollers went awassailing from house to house, a tradition which reached back to the pagan times and accounts for the secular sound of so many of the carols that are popular today.
|Brady and Tate's New Version of the Psalms of David|
included "While Shepherds Watched",
the first Christmas carol in an Anglican hymnal.
A wealth of Christmas text and music was added to Hymns Ancient and Modern in the period from 1850s onward and many of the popular carols we know and love today were composed at that time. It was also a time when many of the earlier carols were arranged or reset to new tunes often having been translated from the Latin.
As I was growing up in the 50s and 60s a few popular standards - Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels and While Shepherds et al - seemed to be the only ones heard. But during the 70s I had the good fortune to be introduced to a treasury of Christmas music every week day afternoon by Bob Kerr on his programme Off the Record. Much of what I enjoy today as music at Christmas I can trace back to his incredible eclectic mix of music for the season that encompassed so many periods, cultures and languages. At the same time I became involved at St Thomas Anglican Church in Toronto and there discovered Christmas carols that were part of a vital music tradition in the parish.
Though I still love the old familiar carols there are so many beautiful songs that sing to the heart of the season and that make my Christmas a rich and happy time. Over the next few days I'm planning to post a few of my favourites from those less well-known carols. Hopefully they will bring you as much joy as they do me.
15 dicembre/December - Santa Maria Crocifissa di Rosa