More details to come.
Works by: Archer, Bainton, Bullard, Byrd, Holst, Rutter, Stainer, Vaughan Williams, and traditional carols.
Mark your calendars for our December 4 English Christmas Party and Singalong with beautiful music & scrumptious English Fayre & champagne – held in one of the most elegant homes in Moorestown. Invitations will be mailed soon.
- West Jersey Chamber Choir
Sunday December 11, 2016 at 7:30 pm
THE TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAROL
A version of Christmas Carols has been sung in Europe for thousands of years. As far back as 129 AD a song called an Angel’s Hymn was sung at Christmas and in 706 AD Comas of Jerusalem wrote a Christmas Hymn for the Greek Orthodox Church. Carols were originally written and sung in Latin which was not very helpful to regular people. The word “Carol” itself means a dance or song of praise and joy. Carols were in fact written for all seasons but the tradition of singing them at Christmas is the one that has survived.
Christmas music – gathered from throughout Christendom. Think Silent Night, Adeste Fideles (“O Come, All Ye Faithful”), O come, O come, Emmanuel, Cantique de Noël (“O Holy Night”) was an early feature of celebrating the holiday. The earliest examples are what we know as Gregorian chants intended for liturgical use in the Feast of the Nativity, many of which are still in use by the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the 13th century, influenced by St. Francis of Assisi, Christmas songs turned to the vernacular when he began his Nativity Plays in Italy. People accompanied the plays with songs or canticles that told the story of the plays. These canticles were in the language that regular people could understand and sing; and from that time the new carols spread through Europe to France, England, Spain and Germany.
It is thought that the earliest carol was written around 1410 but unfortunately only small pieces of it still survive. This particular carol was about Mary and Jesus in Bethlehem. But on the whole, the English Elizabethan carols were not based on true stories but just loosely based on the Christmas story. They were often sung in homes rather than churches or by traveling singers or minstrels. One such example of these early carols was “I Saw Three Ships”. But music soon became a major component in Christmas tributes and included some of the noblest works of notable composers.
During the English Puritan period of Oliver Cromwell, even though carols survived, they were sung in secret. It was not until Victorian times that carols as we know them today in the U.S. were collected from English villages by William Sandys and Davis Gilbert and became popular with the singing public. Carols were also sung by official carol singers called “Waits”, who only sang on Christmas Eve or “waitnight”; named after the shepherds watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.
Many new carols, including “Good King Wenceslas” were also written in the Victorian period. New carol services were created and became very popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Popular types of carol services are Carols by Candlelight and Festivals of Nine Lessons and Carols, which are held in countries all over the world.
Change was incremental in the colonies but was greatly accelerated in the new United States. Literature reflected this relaxation. A cleric named Clement Moore wrote a Christmas poem for his children. He called it “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (as it was published anonymously in 1823), but we know it as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Then came the blockbuster – Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which has shaped attitudes toward Christmas ever since: a time for giving, reflection and family.
(2. The Traditional Christmas Carol)
The Christmas Carol has endured through history to its present form and no Christmas celebration would be complete, either in church or home, without the singing of carols, that reflect the spirit of the season – the Birth of Jesus Christ and the love of our family, friends and communities. Christmas is a time to sing traditional carols and celebrate peace and good will to everyone.