Week 189 – The Holly Bears a Berry

A carol, so it’s often sung at Christmas. However with three of the four verses dealing with Christ’s death and resurrection, it’s surely more of an Easter carol – A.L.Lloyd, in his sleevenotes to the Watersons’ Frost and Fire describes it as “Another spring carol, proper to the period between Passiontide and Easter” and that’s good enough for me. I first heard the song on that 1965 Watersons LP; I probably learned it from there too, although I may have got the words from the Oxford Book of Carols, where it appears under the title of the ‘Sans Day Carol’. It’s also known as the ‘St. Day Carol’, having been taken down from an old man, Mr Thomas Beard,  at St Day in the parish of Gwennap, in Cornwall. The Oxford Book of Carols tells us that “St. Day or St. They was a Breton saint whose cult was widely spread in Armorican Cornwall”.

Sheet Music for the St Day Carol, from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 123 - via http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/

Sheet Music for the St Day Carol, from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 123 – via http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/

The Holly Bears a Berry

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

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