And all is back on track at our bijou apartment.
A marzipan coat now adorns the cake:
Colds and flu have been banished.
The Christmas tree has been installed.
Mince pies and spekulatius biscuits are leading the Christmas fare charge:
. . . and all is right with the world.
And so here I sit, the evenings beginning to draw in, and fortified by a mince pie (or two) and a glass of cointreau, I begin to mull things over. . . things such as: What are my favourite Christmas Carols?
I love Christmas carols. By this I mean real Christmas carols; not 'winter songs'.
I like winter songs too - my favorite being 'Sleigh Ride' by Leroy Anderson - but that is not what I mean. I mean Christmas carols: Songs that are specifically meant to be sung in the Christmas season.
As I understand it, a "carol" was a medieval dance tune which gradually changed in meaning until we know it as a song to be sung in honour of some aspect of Christmas. I see that carols can also be about winter and there are some for Easter although they are not generally thought of in that sense. To my mind, (and I expect yours too), when the word 'carol' is mentioned we either think of someone's name, or a song to be sung at Christmas.
Anyway, I have been thinking to myself: What are my favourite Christmas carols? I decided for the purpose of this post to choose eight. Eight Christmas carols that cheer my heart...
It was hard to choose just eight because there are many that I like. The list started out at six but there were two more that I just couldn't leave out!
. . . and so here they are; in no particular order (and I have included a link at the end of each carol so you can listen to them. They may not be the best of recordings but they are the best I could find on Youtube):
GOOD KING WENCESLAS
This carol has received a fairly bad press over the years although I don't know why. I like it a lot. Written in the Victorian era, it uses as its base a medieval dance tune (an original carol) and joins it with words written to show the value of charity.
The author was John Mason Neale, a very High Church Anglican priest and hymn-writer who at one time was suspected of being an agent of the Pope. His sister Elizabeth knew my great-grandmother's family and a so-many great aunt joined her in becoming an Anglican nun.
IN DULCI JUBILO
Some people say that it was composed by the great German early composer, Michael Praetorius but I am not sure if this is correct. I like the gently lilting music, which are a perfect accompaniment to the Latin words.
This was written by Adolphe Adam (composer of the ballet Giselle) and often translated as 'Oh Holy Night'. A beautiful carol. Dignity and purity seem to exude from this work. I find it very moving.
AWAY IN A MANGER
I thought that this carol was written by an American but I must be mixing it up with another work. This is the first carol I learnt as a child and for that reason it is special for me.
Another carol for which the authorship is in some dispute. Known in English as Oh Come All Ye Faithful' it is said to have been composed by John Francis Wade, an English Catholic hymn writer who fled to France in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion. I always find this to be a rousing piece.
TU SCENDI DALLE STELLE
This one might be my all time favourite. Written by St Alphonsus Liguori in about 1732 it translates into English as 'You Came a Star from Heaven'. The lilting tune, the lovely words: what is there not to like in this wonderful piece.
ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH
This is French carol of unknown origin, known as 'Les Anges dans nos campagnes'. It was translated into English by Bishop Chadwick of Hexham in the Victorian era. Like Adeste Fideles, I find it to be a rousing carol that gets everyone singing.
MASTERS IN THE HALL
I was surprised to learn that this was written by our old friend William Morris: Our very own Arts and Crafts Christmas carol! He wrote the 'medieval' lyrics to accompany a much older piece of music, composed by the Baroque composer Marin Marais. Like many carols this was in fact a dance tune but I guess that such tunes give a pastoral, countryside air to such works, in keeping with the subject matter. I like this because I think that it does indeed make one think of 'Olde England'.
A carol rescued by Ralph Vaughan Williams. A song of hope and of joy. I often find my self singing this while cooking!
Now tell me: Do you have some favourite Christmas Carols?
What are they?