Dec. 3rd, 2011

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Listen here.

All right, time to get a little more traditional! For me Loreena McKennit is one of those artists who's always balancing right on the edge of cheesy and overdone without ever falling over it. Her Christmas albums (this is from A Midwinter Night's Dream) are particularly lovely. This is a comparatively well-known song but she has many more obscure ones as well. And she does know how to rock a simple yet powerful arrangement, doesn't she?

Mainly Norfolk, a great resource for traditional and folk music, quotes A.L. Lloyd on the Watersons' version and the history of the song:

Smashing tune, baffling words. A bit before the ninth century a set of antiphons used to be sung for the week before Christmas. About the thirteenth century an anonymous author made a Latin metrical hymn out of five of these antiphons, and this hymn was translated by J.M. Neale (1818-66), the author of Good King Wenceslas. Most modern hymnbooks prefer the later translation by T.A. Lacey but the Methodist Hymnbook and the Salvation Army stick to Neale, and it's his words - more or less - that the Watersons offer here. The tune, first printed in 1856, is credited as “adapted by T. Helmore from a French missal in the National Library, Lisbon.” No-one has been able to find it there. Quite likely it's a mock-medieval confection of Victorian times. But a good 'un.

Here's a video:

Trivia: this is the longest track in this Advent calendar, but if you add yesterday's two together it's only the second longest. Enjoy!

Get the full musical Advent calendar here. | What is this?


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