Friday, December 23, 2011

A Carol for Christmas V - For Dolly

On Christmas morning 1745 Dorothy Byrom received a special gift. Though he had several children little Dolly was John Byrom’s particular favourite and he had promised her that he would write something just for her to celebrate the Feast Day. Amongst the presents waiting for her that morning Dolly found an envelope and an excited little girl opened it before anything else. To her delight it was a poem bearing the heading Christmas Day for Dolly. We know it better by its first line: Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn.

John Byrom's original text of "Christians awake, salute the happy morn"
which little Dolly found amongst her Christmas gifts on that morning in 1745.

It was to be published the following year in Harrop's Manchester Mercury and was set to music in 1750 by John Wainwright. Little is known about the composer – he was organist at the Collegiate Church in Manchester and in 1766 published a collection of Hymns, Psalms and Chants. 
Somewhere in my collection I have a recording of this joyous carol by The Huddersfield Choral Society – arguably the premiere amateur choir in the British Isles – and again was hoping to find them on YouTube. Unfortunately their full-throated – is there anything quite like an English choir in full voice? – rendition was not there but I did find an equally delightful if smaller scaled version.

This quartet of well-known British singers recorded it in 1948 for Victor.  Regarded as one of the great English oratorio singers of the 20th century Isobel Baillie was a petit Scottish soprano with a silvery voice. She is joined by Gladys Ripley, a well-respect contralto who was a great favourite of Sir Adrian Boult, tenor John McHugh and Australian baritone Harold Williams.   Perhaps this is the way it was sung in the Byrom great room and many other homes on Christmas mornings after Wainwright had set it to music.

23 dicembre/December - San Giovanni da Kety
Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Kids had different tastes in Christmas presents in the mid-1700s from today, didn't they?