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Christmas Carols


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Hello,

my name is Andrea and I’m a pianist and choir director in a small town near Rome, in Italy.

First of all, many thanks for accepting me into your Forum.

For several years I have been studying (from an historical point of view, mainly) Christmas Carols: I’m very keen on this music, but I find it very difficult to study its history especially because in Italy libraries are not equipped with the relevant bibliography.

Searching through Internet, last year I came to this Forum and I was struck by your competence and accuracy about some Christmas Carols’ tunes. So I would like to ask you, if I may, two questions about two songs.

1) O little town of Bethlehem. I’ve already studied the tunes composed by L. H. Redner and R. V. Williams. However I have read that, among the several tunes of this Carol, two were composed by H. Walford Davies (“Wengen” and “Christmas Carol”): do you know if them were published and, if yes, there is a way for me to read them?

2) The holly and the ivy. In the collection "100 Carols for Choir" by D. Willcocks and J. Rutter (pag. 328 ss) there is that carol, arranged by Henry W. Davies (Sharp’s tune). Now, in the sheet music and generally in Internet it is stated that Davies copyrighted "The holly and the ivy" in 1913. Please, can you tell me what is the oldest collection in which the Henry Walford Davies' arrangement was published? I think it was before "Carols for Choir 2" (because if I'm not wrong this collection appeared in 1970). I have asked such questions also to St. George’s Chapel Archives, but they don’t have a catalogued copy of “The holy and the ivy” by sir Walford Davies.

Many thanks...

Andrea

 

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O little town of Bethlehem
Perhaps the standard hymn book of the Church of England at the end of the nineteenth century was Hymns Ancient and Modern. This was first published in 1861. In 1875 some 'Supplemental Hymns' were added and, in 1889, yet more in a 'Second Supplement'. This second supplement included the carol 'O little town of Bethlehem' to Walford Davies's tune 'Wengen'.  I do not know whether this was its first publication, but searching other hymn books (many of which are online in the Internet Archive) would likely be the best place to test this.

His tune 'Christmas Carol' appeared in the hymn book Songs of Praise (Oxford University Press), at least in the second edition (I do not have the first and neither seems to be available online). Songs of Praise gives just a plain, four-part arrangement of the tune with this name.  Who gave the tune the name 'Christmas Carol' I do not know. Walford Davies's 'original version' is reprinted (from where I don't know), without any name for the tune, in Carols for Choirs 3 (Oxford University Press, 1978). This original version starts with a recitative introduction and the first two verses are unison or solo.

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Greetings and welcome, Andrea. As well as finding Walford Davies' version of O Little Town in Carols for Choirs 3, you can find some of it here in cpdl. I don't think you will find the full version with the solo verses online because of copyright so Carols for Choirs 3 is your best option. 

I'm sorry that I can't help with The holly and the ivy. As you will have seen, his copyright materials are all covered by his trustees who, in the ordinary way of things, might have been able to help, but I don't know who they are. I do just wonder if you might approach The Temple Church in London where he was functioning as organist in 1913... or, better still, perhaps you could try to contact Jeremy Dibble who is his biographer - see here. I would have thought he would know the answer to this if anyone does. I would try him as your next step. His email address is in that link.

Best of luck!

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The earliest publication of "Christmas Carol" I can find was in 1905.

This page (towards the bottom) has the following entry: 

Quote

"Christmas Carol" by Sir Henry Walford Davies from Carey Bonner, ed., The Sunday School Hymnary: A Twentieth Century Hymnal for Young People (London: Sunday School Union, 1905), #192, pp. 202-203.

with links to scans of the two pages.  The accompaniment is for piano; Willcocks made the organ arrangement in Carols for Choirs 3.  A modern printing of the piano version is linked from Choralwiki, and is here.  The other sources do not have the introductory recit, so I suspect that was added as part of Willcocks's arrangement.

On the same page the previous entry is for Wengen, linking to the A&M Standard Edition of 1922.  But the contents of that book were finalised with the Second Supplement of 1916, so the date of that tune is no later than that.  It is IMO so inferior to his earlier tune that I guess he was commissioned to provide a new tune for that supplement and knocked it off without inspiration - but that is pure speculation.

I haven't had as much luck with The Holly and the Ivy.  I have found that Novello published an adaptation of Walford Davies's arrangement in or before 1951 (see here - expand the image to see the date), so it may be that it had previously been published in the original form by them - worth asking, at least.  Around the same time, the choir of Westminster Abbey recorded it under McKie, so I guess the Abbey has old (original?) copies.

Paul

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6 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

So the recitative intro in CfC3 is a Willcocks confection then?

Mmm... I don't think so. The footnote on page 138 of Carols for Choirs 3 makes clear... "the original piano accompaniment adapted for organ by David Willcocks." If he had composed (as opposed to arranged) a whole introduction with accompaniment, surely, it would say that. And also, I am sure I have seen and sung the whole thing, as it were, in a separate pamphlet in my youth.

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It was merely a passing thought of mine, too late at night.  The oldest publication I found omitted it, but on reflection looks hardly likely to be the true original publication. 

In fact, I now see that RSCM publish it separately, in a version which, from the one page visible on the Internet, must be the piano version.  It may be that their publication includes the original date somewhere, I suppose.

EDIT: Getting closer now.  This listing of Walford Davies's manuscripts deposited at the RCM includes the entry in the volume for 1901 [sic]:

Quote

The Child of Bethlehem: a carol for church use, for soprano solo, choir and organ (‘O little town of Bethlehem’). 28 November 1902.

Note that it has organ accompaniment.  I wondered if that was a mistake, but then I found this publication specifically of that manuscript.  Note that the verses both start with a partial bar, rather than flowing through regularly, and that verse two has a second (tenor) soloist.

I'm now wondering whether the piano version or the organ one is the original.  The figuration towards the end of the recit section looks more pianistic to me...

In 1914 of the RCM catalogue there is the entry:

Quote

O Little Town: carol-hymn (second setting). For SA with piano accompaniment. With an unidentified sketch on the reverse

I wonder if that is a early version of Wengen (which isn't listed under that name).

Paul

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On 16/05/2021 at 00:59, pwhodges said:

The earliest publication of "Christmas Carol" I can find was in 1905.

This page (towards the bottom) has the following entry: 

with links to scans of the two pages.  The accompaniment is for piano; Willcocks made the organ arrangement in Carols for Choirs 3.  A modern printing of the piano version is linked from Choralwiki, and is here.  The other sources do not have the introductory recit, so I suspect that was added as part of Willcocks's arrangement.

On the same page the previous entry is for Wengen, linking to the A&M Standard Edition of 1922.  But the contents of that book were finalised with the Second Supplement of 1916, so the date of that tune is no later than that.  It is IMO so inferior to his earlier tune that I guess he was commissioned to provide a new tune for that supplement and knocked it off without inspiration - but that is pure speculation.

I haven't had as much luck with The Holly and the Ivy.  I have found that Novello published an adaptation of Walford Davies's arrangement in or before 1951 (see here - expand the image to see the date), so it may be that it had previously been published in the original form by them - worth asking, at least.  Around the same time, the choir of Westminster Abbey recorded it under McKie, so I guess the Abbey has old (original?) copies.

Paul

Many many thanks!

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