Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

A Carol, Or Not A Carol?


Tony Price
 Share

Recommended Posts

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the KCC Nine Lessons and Carols this year, but once again am left challenged by the use of the word 'carol' for some of the more obscure (modern?) items. How would others define the noun carol in a Christmas context? At what point does a carol become a Christmas anthem, or is any music with a Christmas theme to be defined as a carol?

 

There are obviously those carols that have been determined as such over time and through tradition, most of which encourage participation from beyond the choir. Beyond this, for me personally, it gets a trifle difficult to draw a line between something appropriate for a concer or carol service, and something that is better left for something more reflective and/or eucharistic in nature.

 

Is it just the passing of time and familiarity that eventually attaches the word to a piece of music, or should there be other essential qualities present to enable the description to be invoked?

 

Tony (who shocked a small number of conservative Catholic attendees at a carol concert in the church by using the John Julius Norwich 12 Days exactly as written - it was suggested afterwards that the Blessed Sacrament should have been removed from the church prior to the concert - it was huge, huge fun though!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the KCC Nine Lessons and Carols this year, but once again am left challenged by the use of the word 'carol' for some of the more obscure (modern?) items. How would others define the noun carol in a Christmas context? At what point does a carol become a Christmas anthem, or is any music with a Christmas theme to be defined as a carol?

 

There are obviously those carols that have been determined as such over time and through tradition, most of which encourage participation from beyond the choir. Beyond this, for me personally, it gets a trifle difficult to draw a line between something appropriate for a concer or carol service, and something that is better left for something more reflective and/or eucharistic in nature.

 

Is it just the passing of time and familiarity that eventually attaches the word to a piece of music, or should there be other essential qualities present to enable the description to be invoked?

 

Tony (who shocked a small number of conservative Catholic attendees at a carol concert in the church by using the John Julius Norwich 12 Days exactly as written - it was suggested afterwards that the Blessed Sacrament should have been removed from the church prior to the concert - it was huge, huge fun though!)

 

It's a very vague term that means different things to different people.

 

The OED defines a carol as (inter alia) a song, especially one of a joyous character. It defines a song as "that which is sung". On that basis, the only parts one might have a problem with are the prayers (which are neither lessons nor carols) and the voluntaries (ditto). One might feel the Sandstrom piece (which I felt was the highlight of the service) doesn't satisfy this definition if one were unable to conceive of joy being expressed in a contemplative way.

 

Alternatively, as understood by Joe Public, a carol is any sung piece of music with a Christmas theme, especially but not exclusively one with a religious context (hence such secular pieces as "Rudlolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "White Christmas" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas" pass as a carols for many people). Again, everything except the prayers and voluntaries satisfy this definition.

 

On the other hand, Grove says that a carol is a musical form with a refrain (known as a "burden") that is sung before the first verse, between verses and after the last verse, and the season it quite irrelevant. By that definition, not one in ten of us knows any carols at all, although I certainly heard several wonderful examples from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries at the York Christmas Early Music Festival earlier in the month - largely in Latin and Middle English.

 

The other problem with the title of the service is that it seems to imply there will be nine carols. The nit-picker might prefer the service to be entitled "A Festival of Nine Lessons, Six Congregational Hymns (some with descants) interspersed with Sundry Prayers, Collects and Ditties and Preceeded and Followed by a Selection of Pieces for Organ Solo" so as not to mislead anyone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

a musical form with a refrain (known as a "burden") that is sung before the first verse, between verses and after the last verse, and the season it quite irrelevant. By that definition, not one in ten of us knows any carols at all,

The Holly and the Ivy; Past Three O'Clock...

 

Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

On the other hand, Grove says that a carol is a musical form with a refrain (known as a "burden") that is sung before the first verse, between verses and after the last verse, and the season it quite irrelevant.

 

/quote]

 

'All things bright and beautiful' is one? 'Masters in this hall' and The Coventry Carol are others?

 

A Carol means to me something more rooted in Folk Song and which is indigenous to certain areas. I have a feeling that the term originated in France in early mediaeval times as dances - une Carole. By singing these round songs you never needed instruments. Surely it is all a part of being able to make your own entertainment at the drop of a hat as well as keeping warm! I think that what we hear in some of these Carol Services are high art-forms of the original. However, I still am more partial to hearing the age-old versions that tell a rudimentary tale than some commissioned items that seem only to harmonically describe cracking ice or melting slush. At Christmas I still adore the charm of the past. Highlights were playing for my old headmaster who when he retired from school in Dorset took over three parishes in Oxfordshire - Steeple Aston, Tackley and North Aston. Playing yearly for their Carols was an utter joy which was full of country charm and enthusiasm.

 

Bah! Humbug, and happy dancing!

Nigel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the KCC Nine Lessons and Carols this year, but once again am left challenged by the use of the word 'carol' for some of the more obscure (modern?) items. How would others define the noun carol in a Christmas context? At what point does a carol become a Christmas anthem, or is any music with a Christmas theme to be defined as a carol?

 

There are obviously those carols that have been determined as such over time and through tradition, most of which encourage participation from beyond the choir. Beyond this, for me personally, it gets a trifle difficult to draw a line between something appropriate for a concer or carol service, and something that is better left for something more reflective and/or eucharistic in nature.

 

Is it just the passing of time and familiarity that eventually attaches the word to a piece of music, or should there be other essential qualities present to enable the description to be invoked?

 

Tony (who shocked a small number of conservative Catholic attendees at a carol concert in the church by using the John Julius Norwich 12 Days exactly as written - it was suggested afterwards that the Blessed Sacrament should have been removed from the church prior to the concert - it was huge, huge fun though!)

 

=============================

 

 

Christmas is really the pagan Yuletide festival hijacked by organised religion. It doesn't matter what bit you look at....jingling bells, holly, ivy, yew-trees, miseltoe, evergreens, stars on top of trees, exchanging gifts, fertility, new born children, wisemen, carols....the list is considerable.

 

Even the colours of Christmas are pagan....red and green, with white representing purity.

 

Now, as the spirits of the north, south, east and west will tell you, I am not a pagan, but I quite like the idea of having a Christmas Tree so that the Wood-Spirits have a place to hang out and keep warm indoors; protected from evil spirits by the spikes of the holly, which catch them like fly-paper before they can do any harm.

 

Carols were largely of pagan origin. People loved to sing them and dance around like idiots....they still do!

 

Holy Mother Church, (misery guts that she is), tried to have them banned in 1290 at the Council of Avingnon, but everyone ignored them and carried on singing and dancing regardless. They tried to ban them again in the 15th century, but to no avail. The Puritans had a go too, even accusing carol singers of being followers of witchraft. (Misery and oppression are truly inter-denominational, but belief seldom is).

 

Does a good idea have to have a good reason? I don't think so!

 

There's nothing wrong in singing and dancing and having a drink in the middle of winter, and as for the pagan fertility thing, I know something about this; having been born a month early towards the end of August!

I just wish that people wouldn't try to spoil it with the dubious theology of a virgin birth, (also shared with other religions), a lean-to stable, (nothing like the real thing), angels floating around for no apparent reason, camels, lambs, donkeys, wise men, (soothsayers), and symbolic gifts. It's no better or worse than the pagan celebrations the church tried to hi-jack and call its own.

 

Anyway, make the best of Christmas cards showing penguins, polar bears and snowmen, because they've also now been hi-jacked. to become a part of the new religion. I am fully expecting to see the first cremated corpse of a penguin floating down the Humber Estuary at any time, and then I will know that the end is nigh.

Like Christmas Day, what goes around comes around, including the merchants of doom and gloom, with their depressing Christmas sermons.

 

Carol away 'til you puke, I say!

 

MM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
A Carol means to me something more rooted in Folk Song and which is indigenous to certain areas. I have a feeling that the term originated in France in early mediaeval times as dances - une Carole.

 

I've always thought as much ... particularly as it lends weight to the argument that a carol is not just for Christmas ("This joyful Eastertide," anyone?) and also allows me to up the tempo for so many of the congregational items every year - too often have I experienced "Hark the herald," "O come all ye faithful" and "God rest you merry" at speeds that would make a funeral dirge seem quick!

 

One thing I noticed reading through the O/S from King's Cambridge: they seem to define "carol" as being exclusively for Choir alone, with the congregation joining in for each "hymn." Hmm....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always thought as much ... particularly as it lends weight to the argument that a carol is not just for Christmas ("This joyful Eastertide," anyone?)

 

OUP's 100 Carols for Choirs certainly includes Easter items..... including Jesus Christ is Risen Today which is certainly a congregational piece.

 

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...