Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Carols

I enjoy researching the Christmas Carols that my  choir,  Cantamos,  sings each Christmas.  Items marked with "*" are from:   The Christmas Carol Reader, by William Studwell, who died this year.  Listen to NPR:  A Final Lesson on the Meaning of Christmas.

Past Three O'Clock: A tradtional English Carol

This website, Christmas Carol Dances, gives dance steps to many carols. It says about this carol:
The refrain and the tune go back to Renaissance times and both were possibly traditional ones used by the waits (British town pipers). Both are found in 17th century sources. The words of the refrain were used, for example, in the 1665 edition of John Playford's Dancing Master, the 3 rd edition, and were quoted or used in literature and song many times in the 18th and 19th centuries. A volume of Old English Ditties published in 1881 included a non-Christmas song with this refrain complemented by verses composed by John Oxenford. The Christmas verses given here and now most commonly associated with the refrain and the melody were written by George Ratcliff Woodward, who also wrote the words to 'Ding, Dong, Merrily on High', for The Cambridge Carol Book of 1924, which he co-edited.

In Dulci Jubilo/Joseph Dearest*

From:  Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire:

The author of In dulci jubilo is not certainly known, but may have been the 14th century German and Dominican mystic Henrich Suso, who, according to legend, wrote the tune and the words after he had danced with the angels and sung the song with them.  See, John Rutter's "Brother Heinrich's Christmas" for delightful setting of this myth.  The original text exhibits a technique known as farsing:  basically the insertion of vernacular, the common tongue, into Latin texts.

The lyrics for "Joseph, Dearest" were created anonymously in the 14th or 15th century.  By the late 15th century, they were linked with a very lovely anonymous tune which probably was composed in 14th century Germany.  The tune was also attached to the well-known Latin carol from the 13th or14th century Germany, "Resonet in laudibus.

The Other Night (this endris Night):  Music by Ron Soderwall

This text is a 15th century English Carol.  Ron Soderwall is a high school choral conductor in California that retired this year.  Here's a picture.  Here's an article about his retirement. 

Go Where I Send Thee!

It's interesting to see how many versions of this song exist.  Jean Ritchie of Kentucky introduced it to American listeners.  It was thought to have been brought to the Lake Superior Area by Cornishmen who worked in the area's copper mines. It was also used as a harvest song in Cornwall. The song was well known in many sections of Europe as early as the sixteenth century, when it first appeared as an addition to the German Jewish Passover Haggadah, and may have existed as a Jewish folk song some time before it was printed. A Latin version from a 1630 manuscript lists two testaments, three Patriarchs, four evangelists, five books of Moses, six vessels (of Cana) etc.

What Child is This*

The tune is a product of the 16th centruy.  It was much a part of contemporary English culture by 1600 that it was referred to in Act Two, Scene One of Shakespear's The Merry Wives of Windsor.  The lyrics were written around 1865 by William Chatterton Dix.  Quite possibly it was John Stainer who brough Dix's lyrics and "Greensleeves" together.  Stainer produced a primer for budding organists called The Organ which is still in use today. (I have my copy!)  He also composed the beautiful "Seven-Fold Amen" that we sing at the end of the Lutkin Benediction.  It was most likely his book:  Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (1871), where the words and tune were paired.

Go Tell It on the Mountain*

What is the secret of this carol?  Simply, it is an aggregate of very positive "e" words.  add to enthusiastic the terms, energetic, ebullient, exciting, emphatic, esthetic, and excellent as well as others, and you have a true composite of the song.

Minute 3:

Whispering Snow

Ruth Elaine Schram wrote the words and music to this new contribution to seasonal music.  Mrs. Schram wrote her first song at the age of twelve, and her first octavo was published twenty years later, in 1988. In 1992, she became a full-time composer and arranger and now has over 1,700 published works.  Over sixteen million copies of her songs have been purchased in their various venues, and she has been a recipient of the ASCAP Special Award each year since 1990.  In addition to her choral music for church and school choirs, her songs appear on thirty albums (four of which have been Dove Award Finalists) and numerous children's videos, including sixteen songs on four gold videos, and four songs on one multi-platinum video.  Her songs have also appeared on such diverse television shows as "The 700 Club" and HBO's acclaimed series "The Sopranos."

Santa Baby 

Eartha Kitt was a sultry nightclub performer who earned a record deal with RCA in 1953. Trying to play up her image as a sophisticated vamp, RCA had her record a French song called "C'est Si Bon" (It's So Good), which put her on the radar. At the end of 1953, Joan Javits, who was the niece of US Senator Jacob Javits, wrote "Santa Baby" for Kitt with Philip Springer, and it became a holiday hit and Kitt's most famous song. Javits came up with the lyric "Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree, for me," and Springer quickly came up with the music.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

This old luck song is said to come from the West of England in the 16th century, but almost nothing else is known of this song. It does not occur in any of the oldest sources to which I have access (that is, Kele, Gilbert, Sandys, Sylvestre, Husk, Bullen, Bramley & Stainer, Greene, The Oxford Book of Carols, etc.), but is regularly found in most modern collections of carols, and is very frequently heard during the Christmas-tide (although Keyte and Parrott feel that it is "in all too common use by modern doorstep carrolers."). Simon includes this as one of the songs found in the repertoire of the Waits. 
The Final Carol Of The Year ( See the NPR site) - Christmas is especially difficult for Laura Studwell this year. Not only was her father an expert on the music of the season; he adored Christmas. She says the celebration always started Thanksgiving night, and it was a month-long whirl of decorations, huge parties, songs and presents.  This Christmas Eve, she'll raise a toast to her late parents and play the song that just happens to be this year's Carol of the Year — "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  "I know it sounds cheesy," she says, "with this being the 25th year, but I feel like it's what he's saying to me. That he wants me to have a merry Christmas."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Drink the Kool-Aid

The choices that we make:   we drink the Kool-Aid  and become tainted by the naricissim of others.  (Heard on Morning Edition , December 8, 20010:  Tina Brown on Heroes, paraphrased)