Monday, December 12, 2011

Favorite Christmas Carols: Day 1

In the two weeks between today and Christmas, I'll be posting here some of my favorite Christmas carols, along with a little history of each, why I like them, or just a cop-out along the lines of "Isn't this snazzy?!"

Today's selection is one of my ultra-favorites. I always loved the tune, which I had heard over and over at Christmastime. Only as an adult did I discover the tune had lyrics and those lyrics were hauntingly beautiful.

The Conventry Carol is, perhaps, the oldest "Christmas carol" in existence. It dates from the 16th Century (so 1500s!!) and was originally part of a play put on in the city of Coventry, hence the name, that depicted the story of Jesus' birth and earliest years as told in the Gospel of Matthew. This tune and accompanying lyrics are the only piece of that play that hasn't been lost to history.

The lyrics are meant to represent the mourning and sorrow of a mother who, upon seeing the murderous rage of Herod the King, realizes that her child will suffer the same fate as the other young ones he has ordered killed by his soldiers. Fittingly, considering the subject matter, the traditional tune is in a decidedly minor key.

I have always loved the song because of its beautiful melody. Now that I know the words, I've come to love it that much more--it brings to life a moment in the life of the Savior and makes the time in which He lived that much more real and the people around Him who experienced those moments ever more human.

The Coventry Carol
performed by Collegium Vocale Gent of Flanders, Belgium

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.


Amy McArthur said...

Awesome. I will be purchasing this on iTunes forthwith. By the way, I hardly ever comment, but I've been following your blog obsessively for about a year now and I am a huge fan of your books. I have subsequently spread my addiction to my sister, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and my best friends. We are all anxiously awaiting the release of your next book. I feel like we are friends.... is that creepy? I thought so. I'll shut up now.

Pam Williams said...

What a fabulous place to perform--great acoustics. Not too many Christmas carols written in a minor key. The Kings Singers do a version of this that dramatically emphasizes the minor, which reflects the grief of the parents of those slain children.


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