Posts tagged ‘Carols’

December 24, 2016

Christmas Bonus: a festival of nine carols, and no lessons

I like the idea of a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, but in practice I just can’t get on with a lot of the music – neither the arrangements, nor the way it’s sung. So while I prepare my stuffing, and giblet stock, and cranberry sauce, I’m far more likely to be listening to carolling from Sheffield or Padstow, or The Messiah, or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. So here’s nine carols as an alternative. All have appeared on this blog over the last five years – except, bizarrely, ‘Foster’, which I always think I’ve posted before, but somehow never have. I hope they get you into whatever mood you’d like to be in as Christmas approaches. Now – is it time to put the sprouts on yet?

 

1. While Shepherds watched their flocks by night (Foster)

for other versions see Week 225 – While Shepherds Watched and 

 

2. This is the truth sent from above

see 

 

3. As Shepherds Watched Their Fleecy Care

see 

 

4. Newton’s Double

see 

 

5. The Shepherds Amazed

see 

 

6. Lo! The Eastern Sages Rise

see 

 

7. All Hail and Praise

see 

 

8. Hark Hark What News

see 

 

9. The Sussex Carol

see 

December 23, 2016

Week 263 – Morning Star

After last week’s shipwreck, I thought the blog could do with a bit of Christmas cheer. And this is very jolly indeed. Like ‘Sweet Chiming Bells’ I learned it from the Oysterband’s John Jones, and it’s a carol sung in Meltham, the South Yorkshire village where John was brought up.

It was written by Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915), an American hymn-writer who seems to have had more than her fair share of pseudonyms, and was published in Song Worship for Sunday Schools (1884). There it is credited solely to L.O.Emerson – not another of Crosby’s noms-de-plume, but joint editor of the collection. I assume it was he who set Miss Crosby’s text to music.

Ring Merry Bells, from Song Worship for Sunday Schools (1884), via hymnary.org

Ring Merry Bells, from Song Worship for Sunday Schools (1884), via hymnary.org

John Jones used to sing just the first and last verses, but having discovered a couple more online, I thought I’d include them all here – I rather like the rose of Sharon verse.

The song was very nearly featured on the Magpie Lane album Wassail. We recorded it, but it was cut from the final mix – there was a rather fancy a cappella section which, the lead and harmony vocals having been recorded at separate recording sessions, didn’t quite hang together. Having recently listened back to that outtake, however, there’s a possibility we might revive it next year.

Although I’ve usually referred to the song as ‘Ring, Merry Bells’ I believe it’s known as ‘Morning Star’ in Meltham, and that title prompted the inclusion of the Bledington morris tune ‘Morning Star’ in this arrangement.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Morning Star

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

December 11, 2015

Week 225 – While Shepherds Watched

Surprisingly, I have so far posted only one other version of ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night’ on this blog – Sweet Chiming Bells. I was convinced I had also posted a recording of Magpie Lane singing ‘Foster’, but checking the site index I find that it’s not so. This will have to be rectified (actually, it is the first song in our Magpie Lane Christmas playlist which I shared here a week or so ago, but that doesn’t count!). It would be nice at some point also to be able to post recordings of ‘Otford’, ‘Lyngham’ and, probably my favourite setting of them all, William Knapp’s wonderful  ‘The Song of the Angels, at the Nativity of our Blessed Saviour’. And that still would still be no more than scratching the surface of all the great settings of these words from West Gallery sources, and from the living carolling traditions of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Cornwall.

The words of ‘While Shepherds Watched’ – properly, as Knapp titled it, ‘Song of the Angels at the Nativity of our Blessed Saviour’ – were written by Nahum Tate (1652-1715), poet laureate to William of Orange. The ubiquity of the words owes much to the fact that the six, easily-remembered verses were included immediately after the metrical Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer.

Browsing through the Full English a few weeks back, for carols collected in Oxfordshire, I came across this one.

Shepherds Watch, collected by Cecil Sharp from Charles Benfield, 4th September 1909. From the Full English.

Shepherds Watch, collected by Cecil Sharp from Charles Benfield, 4th September 1909. From the Full English.

The simple tune was noted by Cecil Sharp on 4th September 1909 from Charles Benfield of Bould in Oxfordshire. Mr Benfield (1841-1929) is better known as a morris musician – he played both pipe and tabor and fiddle, for morris sides including  Bledington,Fifield, Idbury, Longborough and Milton-under-Wychwood.

A drawing of Charles Benfield

A drawing of Charles Benfield, and the “queer way he held his bow”. This is a scan of a postcard from my parents’ collection. The illustration was also used as the frontispiece in the first issue of the Countryman magazine. Check out the back of the postcard too.

 

 

While Shepherds Watched

Andy Turner – vocal, Bb/F anglo-concertina

December 5, 2015

Week 224 – All Hail and Praise

Many people have felt unwilling to criticise Kennedy, or to expose his illegal Folktrax publications, on the (pragmatic) grounds that he has actually made the recordings available.  They are no longer available from the EFDSS… and much of the BBC material has been lost…  Like a black-marketeer in wartime, Kennedy has been tolerated because “Where else can you get a pair of nylons?”

Rod Stradling, in an article on the more questionable aspects of the collector Peter Kennedy’s work, at http://www.mustrad.org.uk/enth53.htm

I never owned more than a handful of Folktrax cassettes – I was put off by the shoddy packaging as much as anything. But I have to admit (as proof of Rod’s point) to being rather glad that I bought a copy of Folktrax cassette FTX-504 The Bitter Withy: Early Folk Carols, as it contains a number of songs which are not, as far as I’m aware, available elsewhere. The opening track is ‘All Hail and Praise’, sung by Ralph Thomas from the village of Ashton-under-Hill (now in Worcestershire,  but part of Gloucestershire until the 1930s). It was recorded, not by Peter Kennedy but by Peter Duddridge, in May 1958.

Gwilym Davies told me that there had once been a flourishing carol-singing tradition in and you can read more about this on his excellent Gloucestershire Christmas site:

The Ashton carols were sung by the bell ringers when they came round the village on Boxing Day, but were not sung in the church and the custom died out just after World War II. The carollers were Ken Pratt, Ken Pratt’s father, Albert Langley, Charlie Moore and Frank Whittle (who lost a leg at Mons and who had a lovely voice).  They sometimes sang in parts (although it is not clear to what extent Mrs Roberson wrote the published parts).  Between the Wars Ralph Cotton used to accompany the carollers on violin.  The carollers went round late at night with a lantern on a bean pole.  The very last time they sang was in the 1960s when Fred invited them in to sing in the Tudor room at Stanley Farm.  One of the carols ‘All Hail and Praise the Sacred Morn’ used to be sung at in the nearby Worcestershire village of Elmley Castle at midnight on New Year’s Eve, after which the singers would go to the church gates and sing it there. That was last done in the 1970’s when Reg Berry was one of the carollers.

Naturally Gwilym’s site also includes a page on ‘All Hail and Praise’, where you  can hear a recording of the carol being sung by Ralph Thomas.

 

We sang this for a couple of years with Magpie Lane but, even at the time, I’m not sure I ever got a firm grip on the words. For this recording I had them in large print right in front of me. I’ve never come across this set of words anywhere else, and they just don’t seem very memorable somehow. Maybe, having over the years sung ‘Arise and Hail the Joyful Day’, ‘Arise and Hail the Sacred Day’, ‘Arise and Hail the Glorious Star’, ‘Awake Arise Good Christians’, and any number beginning ‘Hark! Hark!’ or ‘Hail! Hail! Hail!’, I’ve simply reached saturation point with carols. Still, if you go wrong, it should be fairly easy to improvise, as long as you can string together a bunch of lines rhyming born/morn, star/far, bring/sing/king, earth/birth/mirth and – if you’re from the West of England – join/divine.

Incidentally, keen Roud number-spotters will be getting really excited about this one. It didn’t seem to be in Mr Roud’s index, so I got in touch with Steve, and he’s had a rummage around in his bottom drawer, and found a spare one for this carol – it’s now Roud 25791.

All Hail and Praise

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

April 3, 2015

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

December 20, 2014

Week 174 – Sweet Chiming Bells

After last week’s rather depressing entry, here’s a supremely cheerful Christmas carol, recorded at one of last year’s Magpie Lane Christmas concerts.

As mentioned a couple of weeks back, my introduction to folk music came via records, especially records by Steeleye Span and the Watersons, and members thereof. The first folk band I ever saw live was a local EFDSS-style country dance band, possibly the Rigadoons, but actually I think a band who played in the same style but with less enthusisam. That was at a school dance where, with a bunch of friends, I discovered (rather to my surprise) that dancing could be quite fun. The music made very little impression on me though. The first band I saw live after my conversion to folk music would have been in 1976, at a barn dance in Warehorne Village Hall, in Kent;  the band was the Oyster Ceilidh Band. As I’m English, and given to understatement, let’s say I could have done a lot worse. Actually, let’s not beat around the bush, they were bloody fantastic, both to dance to, and to listen to. It was a particular treat to see them in such a small venue – Warehorne Village Hall was tiny, and the band played on a stage made out of boards resting on the billiards table (I later discovered that this had been the case in the 1930s too, when Charlie Bridger had played there for sixpenny hops).

The Warehorne dances were organised by Ron and Jean Saunders, who also organised various other events in the village. One Christmas – I think it was probably 1977 – there was a mass carol-sing around the village, led by singers and musicians from the Oyster Ceilidh Band / Fiddler’s Dram and Oyster Morris. My friend Mike and I had already been going out “wassailing” for at least one Christmas by then, and we’d heard quite a number of folk carols on record. But it was a revelation to me

  1. that “normal” Christmas carols could sound pretty good accompanied by melodeon and guitar (not just ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’ and ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’, but ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ too)
  2. there were alternative tunes for some well-known carols – this was the first time I had ever heard the Herefordshire tune for ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ which is now almost ubiquitous on the folk scene.

The carol which seemed to be the favourite with the Oyster crowd – and continued to be, at Oyster Morris pub sings at Kingston in the 1980s and 90s, and no doubt still is to this day – was this one, ‘Sweet Chiming Bells’. And I think I can safely say that not a year has gone past since then that I’ve not sung it in some context. It was a staple of our “wassailing” repertoire in Kent, and when Carol and I continued the tradition in Oxfordshire. We also sang it at a primary school concert with our son Joe (about 10 at the time) singing along and bashing out the chords on a piano. And in recent years it has become a favourite in the Magpie Lane Christmas repertoire (even though it’s just a bit too unrelentingly jolly for one member of the band).

The version I learned that night in Warehorne came from Meltham, near Holmfirth in South Yorkshire, where John Jones, singer and melodeon player with Oysterband, had grown up. Like many other Yorkshire and Derbyshire villages, Meltham had its own store of Christmas carols, often slightly different to the versions sung elsewhere – there’s a list on this Mudcat thread. John did once tell me the name of the piano player who led the pub carol singing in Meltham, but I can’t find the scrap of paper on which I wrote it down. Never mind, it’s a great song to get you in the Christmas spirit. Thank you John!

Sweet Chiming Bells

Magpie Lane, recorded at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking, 7th December 2013.

Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina
Sophie Thurman – cello, vocal
Jon Fletcher – bouzouki, vocal
Mat Green – fiddle, vocal
Ian Giles, Marguerite Hutchinson – vocals

December 5, 2014

Week 172 – King Pharim

The first folk LPs I heard: Steeleye Span Below the Salt, All Around My Hat, Ten Man Mop; Tim Hart and Maddy Prior Folk Songs of Old England Vol 1; The Chieftains 5; The Watersons For Pence and Spicy Ale; the Copper Family A Song for Every Season. One thing which several of those had in common was really strong harmony vocals, especially on seasonal or ritual songs, and folk hymns and carols. Pride of place in this respect must go to For Pence and Spicy Ale with its harvest songs, its wassails, the magnificent ‘The Good Old Way’, and a really stirring rendition of ‘King Pharim’.

I heard all of these records c1976-77, when I was in the fifth form, going into the lower sixth. Alongside my burgeoning enthusiasm for traditional song, I was also a keen member of our school choir. Mostly, at Christmas, our repertoire came from Carols for Choirs (the green book) but we would also do the occasional number from The Oxford Book of Carols. I remember singing ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’ one year, while the invitation-only Madrigal Choir (and no, I never was invited) did ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ from the same source. Anyway, rifling through the book, I was somewhat surprised and intrigued to discover that it contained a number of carols which I knew from folk LPs. Including, rather bizarrely, ‘King Pharim’. This was presented with a set of words which the editors had considered might be suitable for choirs (although I’m sure I’ve never heard any choir attempt it, and suspect I never will); but the footnotes also reproduced the somewhat incoherent lyrics as collected in Surrey from a family of gypsies by the name of Goby, in 1893. The collector was Lucy Broadwood, and she included the carol in her English Traditional Songs and Carols (1908). The notes in that book give the following information:

Child’s English and Scottish Ballads should without fail be consulted for notes on the carols “St. Stephen and Herod” and the “Carnal and the Crane.” The first-named is preserved in the British Museum, in a MS. judged to be of the time of Henry VI. It narrates that St. Stephen, dish-bearer to King Herod, sees the Star of Bethlehem, and tells the king that Christ is born. Herod scoffingly says that this is as likely as that the capon in the dish should crow. The capon thereupon rises, and crows “Christus natus est!” This legend is extremely ancient, and widely spread over Europe. Its source seems to be an interpolation in two late Greek MSS. of the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus. “The Carnal and the Crane” (see Sandys’ Christmas Carols and Husk’s Songs of the Nativity), appeared on broadsides of the middle of the eighteenth century. The well-informed crane instructs his catechumen, the carnal (i.e., crow), in matters pertaining to the early days of Jesus; and tells how the wise men tried to convince Herod of the birth of Christ by the miracle of the roasted cock, which rose freshly feathered, and crowed in the dish. It also relates the legend of the Instantaneous Harvest, which occurs in Apocryphal Gospels (see B. Harris Cowper’s Apocryphal Gospels). The carol consists of thirty stanzas, some of which have lines in common with the Surrey carol here given. It, likewise, is exceedingly corrupted and incoherent, and must have been transmitted orally from some very remote source. The singers of the Surrey version are very well known Gypsy tramps in the neighbourhood of Horsham and Dorking. “King Pharim” is of course a corruption of “King Pharaoh,” and that name is properly given in a very interesting traditional version of “The Carnal and the Crane” lately noted in Herefordshire. It is quite natural that gypsies should substitute “Pharaoh” for “Herod,” for, on the first appearance of gypsies in Europe (in the fifteenth century), the Church spread the legend that they came from Egypt with a curse upon them because they had refused to receive the Virgin and Child. The gypsies in time came to believe themselves Egyptians, and, according to Simson (1865), recognise Pharaoh as their former king. There is, however, an interesting allusion to Pharaoh in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, Chap. xxv.: “Thence they (Joseph, Mary and Jesus), went down to Memphis, and having seen Pharaoh they staid three years in Egypt; and the Lord Jesus wrought very many miracles in Egypt.” The editor of the Gospel adds, “Memphis may have been visited, but who was Pharaoh? Egypt was then under Roman rule.” The sixth verse of the “King Pharim” carol is a paraphrase of a passage in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chap. xx.

I’m pretty sure my friend Mike and I first went out “wassailing” Christmas 1976. That was just the two of us, but by the following year our numbers had swollen, and a sizeable band of singers continued to go out singing every Christmas for the next 10 years or so. We sang a whole bunch of songs pinched from the Watersons, but I don’t think this was one of them. However when Carol and I moved to Oxford in the late 1980s, and organised a carol-singing ensemble there, this did make it into our repertoire. I remember singing it with Magpie Lane too, in the early days, with instrumental accompaniment. Although it fell by the wayside after a year or two, it’s one of those songs I always sing around the house at Christmas-time. A couple of years ago I tried it for the first time on C/G anglo (instead of the more obvious G/D). It seemed to fit, so  I recorded it. The recording has languished in the vaults since then, but I think it’s time to let it see the light of day. This recording is also my first – and so far only – attempt to experiment with multi-tracking, so you get a bit of melodeon as a special treat, It’s not the most polished performance, but think Dr Johnson – dogs – hind legs etc.

King Pharim

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina, D/A melodeon

Jean François Millet, The Flight Into Egypt, c. 1864. Image copyright the Art Institute Chicago.

Jean François Millet, The Flight Into Egypt, c. 1864. Image copyright the Art Institute Chicago.

November 30, 2014

Week 171 – As Shepherds Watched Their Fleecy Care

The rules of the blog say, as soon as we’re into Advent it’s OK to start posting up Christmas material. So to get the ball rolling here’s a recording of Magpie Lane, from one of last year’s Christmas concerts.

I learned this song from the EFDSS Take Six archive – now part of the Full English. It’s from Janet Blunt’s MSS, and she collected it from the indefatigable William Walton of Adderbury, North Oxfordshire. Blunt’s transcriptions of the various carols she had from William Walton – Newton’s Double  is another – are remarkable in that they have 2 or 3 harmony parts as well as the tune, the octogenarian Walton being able to recall the various parts he had sung over the years. The bass vocal / cello line here, and additional vocal harmony line in the chorus, are all as noted from William Walton; the only thing we’ve added is the short instrumental ‘symphony’ between the verses (and one extra verse, from the five originally published in 1785 – see below).

As Shepherds Watched Their Fleecy Care, from the Blunt MSS.

As Shepherds Watched Their Fleecy Care, from the Blunt MSS.

Unlike some of the other Adderbury carols, we know exactly who wrote this one. ‘As shepherds  watched their fleecy care’ was composed by Joseph Key, an excise officer from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, and first published in Five Anthems, Four Collects, Twenty Psalm Tunes, [etc.]. Book III.  This was actually published in 1785 by his widow, Elizabeth Key, Joesph having died the previous year. There is information about Key and his published works on the website of Warwickshire West Gallery choir Immanuel’s Ground, where it notes that “His wife, no doubt dependant upon the income from his music, and possibly quite capable of taking singing classes herself, continued to publish his music for another six years after his death.”

Sophie, the cellist in Magpie Lane, had actually sung on a recording of this piece while a student. That was on While shepherds watched: Christmas Music from English Parish Churches and Chapels, 1740–1830 by Psalmody with The Parley of Instruments, directed by Peter Holman. The approach on that disc is informed very much by a classical music aesthetic. We treat the song far more like something from the folk tradition.

The recording below was made last December in the reverberant acoustic of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking. There was a good recording of the song from last year’s Holywell Music Room gig too, but the cello is particularly sonorous on this recording – Ian Giles’ bass notes are also captured rather well, I think. Many thanks for fellow Magpie for recording all our Christmas gigs, and sharing the recordings.

We’ll be back in both Oxford and Woking next weekend – followed by Towcester on the 14th and Ringwood Folk Club on 16th Deecmber. Check out all the details at www.magpielane.co.uk

As Shepherds Watched Their Fleecy Care

Magpie Lane, recorded at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking, 7th December 2013.

Andy Turner, Ian Giles, Jon Fletcher – vocals
Mat Green – fiddle
Sophie Thurman – cello

April 18, 2014

Week 139 – There is a Fountain of Christ’s Blood

Last Christmas I was taken to task for failing to mention, when I wrote about ‘This is the truth sent from above’, the version collected, and subsequently arranged for choir, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. That version, noted from a Mr Jenkins at King’s Pyon in Herefordshire, has, I have to admit, a rather wonderful melody. But actually variants of the same melody seem to have been used elsewhere in the Welsh border counties for other carol texts. I have a four-part arrangement which I hope to post some time of a version of ‘On Christmas Night All Christians Sing’, collected in Shropshire by Cecil Sharp, and which is clearly a variant of Mr Jenkins’ tune. And here’s another variant, once again from Herefordshire, recorded in 1909 by Vaughan Williams and E.M. Leather from Mr W. Hancock (or Hancocks) at Weobley.

The tune and first verse of the carol were printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society Vol 4 No 14 (1910), alongside numerous other really fine carols collected by Vaughan Williams. The notes for this piece say “Noted by R. Vaughan Williams, from a Phonograph Record”. I have completed the words with a further five verses (out of an available twelve) from A Good Christmas Box, a collection printed at Dudley in the West Midlands in 1847. It would seem that the song was not infrequently classed as a Christmas carol, as can be seen from these examples from the Bodleian and Full English collections, but it’s clearly a Passiontide piece. Referring back to the Journal article, I was glad to see that Ella Leather concurs: she notes

It is a great favourite with Herefordshire singers, and was formerly sung at Christmas, although the subject is clearly the Crucifixion and not the Nativity.

The Fountain Of Christ's Blood, from the Lucy Broadwood Manuscript Collection, via the Full English archive.

The Fountain Of Christ’s Blood, from the Lucy Broadwood Manuscript Collection, via the Full English archive.

Having learned and recorded ‘Jack Williams’ a couple of months ago, this was to have been my second new song of 2014. So far, however, all attempts to din the words into my head have proved fruitless. I have occasionally, when recording songs for this blog, had the words in front of me as a safety net; this is the first time they’ve been an essential prop. I wanted to put the song online now though, as it’s appropriate for Easter, and I’m not sure that I have enough songs to keep this blog going till Easter next year!

There is a Fountain of Christ’s Blood

December 24, 2013

Week 122 – Hymn for Christmas Day / Sellwood Mollineux’ Carol / Newton’s Double

Hark! hear you not a cheerful noise
Which makes the heavens ring with joy

Well happy Christmas everybody. And here to cheer you on your way are live recordings of Magpie Lane singing three Christmas carols with Oxfordshire connections.

First up, ‘Hymn for Christmas Day’ from a nineteenth century Berkshire manuscript. We came across the song quite by chance, towards the end of the recording sessions for our 2006 album Knock At The Knocker, Ring At The Bell. Dave Eynstone, in whose studio we were recording, showed us a hand-written, leather-bound manuscript book which he had recently inherited, and in the front of which was inscribed

Thomas Eynstone  Cotthill  Berks 1840
Late of Drayton who Departed This Life
January February the 7th 1876
Aged 65 years

Alfred Eynstone  Black Horse  Berks 1876

Thomas Eynstone was an agricultural labourer from Cothill – just West of Abingdon – which has actually been in Oxfordshire since 1974. His manuscript book contains over 175 religious pieces – metrical psalms, anthems, and three pieces entitled ‘Hymn for Christmas Day’, one of which (No. 25) is Joseph Stephenson’s well-known ‘Hark, Hark What News’. This piece is No. 26, and it was completely new to me at the time. Subsequently, however, I found that the New Oxford Book of Carols also had a version, taken from A Book of Psalmody, published by Matthew Wilkins of Great Milton in Oxfordshire c.1760. Apart from the fact that the words were set to music twice by the American composer, William Billings, the NOBC editors had very little information on the piece. In Dave Townsend’s recently published Oxfordshire Carols he has transcribed ‘Hark, Hear You Not’ from A Collection of Church Musick, published by Elizabeth Wilkins, c.1775 – this would appear to be either Matthew Wilkins’ widow, or his daughter (they were both called Elizabeth). Dave doesn’t have anything to add on the provenance of the piece, but notes that it has now been found in another Oxfordshire West Gallery manuscript, belonging to Richard Herring of Marsh Gibbon.

Googling “Hark! Hear You Not A Cheerful Noise?” yesterday afternoon, however, I came across a YouTube “video” where someone had uploaded the recording of the hymn from our CD Knock At The Knocker, Ring At The Bell. Putting to one side the fact that this breaks various copyrights (and no, adding a disclaimer “This video is for entertainment purposes only. I do not own the copyright for the music or image used in this video” does not get you off the hook) there was an intriguing note that it was “Written by English composer William Knapp (1698-1768) in 1744, appearing in the musical work entitled “Anthems for Christmas Day””. My first reaction was “No, that’s wrong”; but further Googling revealed that it does indeed appear to be the case. Francis Roads has compiled a list of Knapp’s works which shows that ‘Hark! Hear you not a chearful noise? An hymn for Christmas Day’ appeared in Knapp’s Anthems for Christmas Day (London 1744).  Now the Christminster Singers are very big on Dorset composer William Knapp – indeed we recorded an entire CD of his compositions. It would appear that recently, and not for the first time, we have been singing and enjoying one of his works without realising that he was the composer. Of course copyright law was not very fully developed in the eighteenth century, and Matthew Wilkins, like other publishers of “West Gallery” collections, seems to have had no qualms about reproducing works by composers such as Knapp in his printed books.

You can hear a MIDI version of William Knapp’s setting at www.rodingmusic.co.uk/downloads/mus32/317/RM317.htm (you’ll need the free Sibelius Scorch plug-in to play it). The Knapp, Wilkins and Eynstone versions are very similar: but the first two have four harmony parts while Thomas Eynstone’s has only three, and the parts are all subtly different; it looks to me as though the carol may have been passed via the oral tradition, rather than simply copied from book to book.

Hymn for Christmas Day, Nos 25 and 26, from Thomas Eynstone's MS.

Hymn for Christmas Day, Nos 25 and 26, from Thomas Eynstone’s MS.

Hymn for Christmas Day, Nos 25 and 26, from Thomas Eynstone's MS.

Hymn for Christmas Day, Nos 25 and 26, from Thomas Eynstone’s MS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other two pieces here are taken directly from Dave Townsend’s Oxfordshire Carols, although Ian and I have been singing both for a while, either with the Christminster Singers, or as guest vocalists with the Mellstock Band.

‘Sellwood Mollineux’s Carol’ is a bit of an oddity, not least because it is in 5/4. Now there are numerous examples of English folk carols which are wholly or partly in 5/4, but I can’t think of another example from the West Gallery canon. Indeed, in Matthew Wilkins’ A Book of Psalmody, from which this is taken, it is barred in common time – but, as Dave realised when transcribing the piece, it is quite clearly supposed to be in five-time. Wilkins has it as a setting for Psalm 145, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever”.  But there is a copy of the Wilkins book which is inscribed “Sellwood Mollineux 1775”, and in that copy this piece is marked “Carol tune”. In the absence of any other information, Dave decided to use the tune as a setting for Philip Doddridge’s text ‘Hark, The Glad Sound! The Saviour Comes!’. The Mollineux family, incidentally, were farmers in the Great Milton area; Sellwood is, I think, an unjustly neglected first name, due for a revival (although I wouldn’t necessarily wish it on any of my own children!).

Finally, ‘Newton’s Double’, from William Walton of Adderbury. In the 1910s Walton provided local folk-song collector Janet Blunt with numerous songs, information about the Adderbury Morris, and West Gallery style carols. He had sung the old carols, first as a boy, then as a man; and remarkably could recall all of the harmony parts from his youth. Blunt had trouble working out how the parts of this fuguing piece fitted together, but Dave Townsend has reconstructed it with reference to other sources, in particular the 1836 James Martin MS from Poole.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Newton's Double), collected by William Walton of Adderbury by Janet Blunt; from the Full English archive.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Newton’s Double), collected by William Walton of Adderbury by Janet Blunt; from the Full English archive.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Newton's Double), collected by William Walton of Adderbury by Janet Blunt; from the Full English archive.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Newton’s Double), collected by William Walton of Adderbury by Janet Blunt; from the Full English archive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recordings of ‘Sellwood Mollineux’ Carol’ and ‘Newton’s Double’ were made at this year’s annual Magpie Lane Christmas concert in the Holywell Music Room, Oxford. We were joined for these by our friends from Eynsham, Tom Hillman, Toby Goss and Simon Headford. Many thanks to them and, of course, to Dave Townsend for making us aware of these fine carols.

Hymn for Christmas Day

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

Jon Fletcher, Marguerite Hutchinson, Andy Turner, Ian Giles, Mat Green – vocals
Sophie Thurman – cello

Sellwood Mollineux’ Carol

Magpie Lane, recorded at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 14th December 2013.

Jon Fletcher, Sophie Thurman, Andy Turner, Ian Giles, Mat Green, Tom Hillman, Toby Goss and Simon Headford – vocals

Newton’s Double

Magpie Lane, recorded at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 14th December 2013.

Jon Fletcher, Sophie Thurman, Andy Turner, Ian Giles, Mat Green, Tom Hillman, Toby Goss and Simon Headford – vocals