Week 69 – This is the truth sent from above

The truth sent from above, from the Bodleian collection: T. Bloomer, Printer, 53, Edgbaston-street, Birmingham, between 1821 and 1827.

The truth sent from above, from the Bodleian collection: T. Bloomer, Printer, 53, Edgbaston-street, Birmingham, between 1821 and 1827.

I got this – and a number of other goodies – on a carol-collecting expedition to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library ten or so years ago. I had the song from Cecil Sharp’s Folk Tunes MS. He noted it down in October 1911  from seventy-one year old Samuel Bradley (not Bradley Wiggins, as I mistakenly announced at a recent concert) and seventy year old Seth Vandrell at Lilleshall in Shropshire. His notes in the MS say “Always sung to this tune. Learned many years ago”.

Sharp published this carol, and at least a couple of others noted on the same 1911 collecting trip, in his English Folk Carols – and he can’t have wasted any time preparing these songs for inclusion since the book was published late the same year.

The notes in the book say

This carol was sung to me by the two singers in unison, Mr. Vandrell refreshing his memory by referring to a small book of carols, printed locally, from which the words in the text have been transcribed. I have, however, omitted seven stanzas between the eighth and the last. “The Truth” is printed in A Good Christmas Box, and is included in Hone’s list [Christmas Carols now annually Printed].

(Incidentally, for those who are interested in such things, the carol as collected by Sharp did not have an anacrusis on the first verse, in contrast to the way it was rendered in the published book)

I’ve omitted even more of the sixteen stanzas – I use only those printed in the Oxford Book of Carols. I don’t know if the carol words have a West Midlands origin, but that this might be the case is suggested by the opening couplet of one verse

Then after this, ‘twas God’s own choice
To place them both in Paradise

which would be a perfect rhyme if sung in a Brummie accent!

This song was included on the Magpie Lane CD Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell. I’ve posted up two versions (although basically the same arrangement): the first is just me and concertina, the second is the full band, recorded a couple of weeks back in the  generously reverberant acoustic of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking.

This is the truth sent from above

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

Magpie Lane, recorded at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking, 8th December 2012.

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina
Jon Fletcher – bouzouki, vocal
Sophie Thurman – cello
Mat Green – fiddle
Marguerite Hutchinson – flute

6 Responses to “Week 69 – This is the truth sent from above”

  1. Liked this one and the musical accompaniment was excellent.

  2. No mention of the version Ralph Vaughan Williams collected, so beloved (deservedly) by “upmarket” choirs. ALR.

  3. I’m afraid I can’t mention everything there is to mention! Also, I’m not very well-versed in the Christmas repertoires of upmarket choirs, so I’m not especially familiar with the RVW setting – although I did sing his Fantasia on Christmas Carols (where the same version features) 3 or 4 years ago with Tom’s school choir. Anyway, this one was collected in Shropshire by Cecil Sharp, not by Ralph in Herefordshire.

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