Dec. 5th, 2011

electricland: (Christmas tree)
Apologies, Grooveshark doesn't have this one and I'm scared of their TOS. However, here's a live version from the Royal Albert Hall:

This site has abundant notes on this carol:

Concerning this carol, Joshua Sylvestre observed in 1861 that

As is the case of some of the preceding [Dives and Lazarus], there are, doubtless, expressions in this simple effusion at which it is difficult to abstain from smiling. The perfect earnestness of these carols, however, and the charm they have long held over the people, are sufficient apologies for inserting them here. Often they are the sole vehicles of ancient religious stories that have come down to us in this form when they have perished in the more dignified chronicles.

Douglas Brice, in The Folk Carol of England, describes this song as a "carolite" sung by town folk as a kind of "luck-visit." He writes that a copy of the song, with the good wishes of the Town Crier inscribed, would be pushed under the front door by visitors — who would return later to collect a Christmas offering for the bellman or night watch-man. In rural areas, the same function was performed by The Wassail Song.

But if any carol can claim a case of mistaken identity, it's this one.  It's known by at least four different titles.  Sandys (1833) and Sharp (1911) gives it the title of The Moon Shines Bright. Bramley and Stainer (1871) give it the title of The Waits' Song, or "The Waits Carol" (Ian Bradley) or "The Old Waits Carol" (Dunstan). And the Oxford Book of Carols (1928) gives it the title of "The Bellman's Song" or also "The Bellman's Carol" (The Oxford Book of Carols and Eric Routley). It can also be found with the subtitle of "The Moon Shone Bright" as found in Husk (1868) and Chope (1894), both with ten verses.... Edith Rickert, in the notes to her version, also observed that verses 3 through 6, inclusive, are sometimes found as a separate poem under the title "O Fair Jerusalem!"

If you're not Canadian, you probably know Kate and Anna McGarrigle (if you know them at all) as the mother and aunt, respectively, of Rufus and Martha Wainwright. If you are Canadian and roughly of my vintage, you might know them best from the classic NFB short The Log Driver's Waltz. Or you might know them as the legendary folk duo they are. This particular song appears on The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, which I had made a vague mental note of but found this year while searching for a choral version of Rebel Jesus, which you may remember from Day 2 of this Advent calendar. (Still with me?) It's full of great guests and great music.

Sadly, Kate died last year, but the family continues to perform, often in aid of the Kate McGarrigle Fund for Sarcoma Research.

(Oh man, speaking of classic NFB shorts...)

Happy Monday, everyone! How's your December going so far?

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