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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in carols

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sing Holly, Sing Ivy

 A few posts back, I wrote about the need for more Ivy carols to replace those that we've lost. Well, here's a new one. For reasons best known only to my poet's intuition, I've cast it in the form of an Elizabethan art song. I've tried to remain true both to botanical reality and to the genre's traditional (if playful) gender wars. There's a tune waiting out there somewhere, I'm sure of it.

Sing Holly, Sing Ivy

 

Of all the trees

that in winter be green,

sing Holly, sing Ivy,

if Holly be king,

then Ivy is queen.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Holly Seeketh Ivy

At this time of year in the English-speaking world, one hears a lot about Holly and Ivy. As usual, the songs preserve the old lore.

In medieval England—and possibly earlier—Holly and Ivy were shorthand for "Male" and "Female." It used to be that when there was a birth in a household, you'd announce the newborn by hanging at the door a branch of holly for a boy or a wreath of ivy for a girl.

So what all those songs about the Holly wearing the crown are really about is male dominance.

But don't go grinding that double ax just yet. As usual, that's just the beginning of the tale.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Death or Glory Wassail

As if the Yuletide weren't already dangerous enough, here come the Thug Wassailers.

Forthwith, yet another comedic masterpiece by the Grand Master of satirical British faux-ksong, Sid Kipper, here heard in redoubtable performance by Blanche Rowen and Mike Gulst.

Shell out and you won't be harmed.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Music of the Longest Night

To many, winter is a time when the grief of loss strikes hardest.  The symbolic death of spring and summer combined with the cold have us turning inward, some seeking a spiritual hibernation.

For me, this grief has been compounded by my mother's December birthday.  This year she would be turning sixty.  One of my friends grieves both her parents today, while another sits in a hospital waiting for her mother's unconscious body to relinquish its hold after a stroke.

...
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dreaming Spring

They say that at Winter's midpoint, Spring walks the earth for a single night. (Or maybe it is her Dreaming that walks.) Look for her footprints in new snow. At her passing, they say, sleeping animals stir in their burrows and dens. At her passing, they say, seeds stir in the frozen soil, and dream of germination.

This playful Appalachian (originally English) folk carol, with its charmingly medieval-sounding minor tune, tells the story of the growing season to come, from plow to winnow. Originally sung at an already oversubscribed “Christemas,” we've reassigned it—for reasons that seem good to us—to Candlemas instead.

Generally we sing this song while standing in a circle, with lots of stomping, clapping, and percussion to help wake the animals and seeds. Each in turn jumps into the center, mimes a verse, and then jumps out again.

After all, there's no reason why making magic shouldn't be a raucous, joyful experience.

No reason at all.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

What is it about the Stag and Yule? Three traditional Midwinter's carols about stags from all over Europe, as charming as they are mysterious.

 

Nine-Tined Stag

Nine-tined stag a-running came

(Kalado, nine-tined stag)

came and into water gazed,

gazed and counted tines.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jaime Johnson
    Jaime Johnson says #
    These are beautiful and mysterious. I couldn't help but sing along as I read them; loving them!
  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    Fascinating. I knew about the carol 'O the Rising of the Sun' which has the line about the running of the deer in its chorus, but

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Given its iconic centrality to the American celebration, it's always struck me as odd that the Yule tree has inspired so few carols. Off-handedly, I can think of only one, and that one is, shall we say... problematic.

William Sansome once remarked of O Tannenbaum that it's apparently impossible to make an English translation of this German children's song “that doesn't sound simple-minded.”

Listening to Alf Houkom's Rune of Hospitality the other day, it occurred to me that maybe we've been working in the wrong genre.

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