Warning: this article contains a number of links to the singing of carols. You are invited to join in but please remember your neighbours …. they may wish to join in … so SING OUT LOUD.
‘Carol’ means dance of song or praise and joy. Certainly, most of us enjoy singing carols: it could be door-to-door, in church or with a group of friends in the pub or at a party. Wherever we are, singing carols is always rousing.
Carols were first sung thousands of years ago as part of the Winter Solstice. The practice seems to have stopped during the years of early Christianity until 1223, when St Francis of Assisi started nativity plays in Italy. These were accompanied by songs that told the story; carols soon became popular in many European countries. The Moravian Church has a strong tradition of music; hence carols were part of the wealth of music taken abroad as the faith spread worldwide. It is amazing how many carols are sung in different languages around the world in Moravian churches to-day.
There are even special carol services, including the Nine Lessons and Carols service. Each year people flock to share in this famous service; some go to church and some to their TV’s to hear the tale unfold in reading and music. Although the most famous is probably King’s College Cambridge, in fact it is believed to have started in 1878 at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJlnu4AyxPo a link to a special King’s College service.
There are carols traditional and modern, plus some beautiful Christmas music. I am sure we each have our favourites. I recall, I hope correctly, that at the 2019 Yorkshire District Choir Christmas Concert Br Michael Newman treated us to a solo of one of his favourites – In the bleak mid-winter. As him singing this does not appear on Youtube, the link below will invite you to listen to a different version.
Of course, hearing the phrase ‘Christmas carol’ will also remind us of Charles Dickens poignant tale ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Personally, I grew up with this, as each December, my father would settle down and read this story. When not reading this or out at work, he was probably at a choir practice preparing for the many carol services; he certainly could sing, unlike his daughter! Back to Dickens: the book was first published in 1843 and since then it has been presented in many ways, each capturing the imagination in the re-telling of this powerful tale. (Look out for how it has been acted in Labrador in next week’s article).
Returning to Christmas carols. As the real pleasure is in the listening and singing, I invite you to pull out your recordings, settle back, listen and enjoy. It is all part of that wonderful experience of revisiting the Christmas story and recalling Christmas’ past. In Christmases to come, we will once again fill our church with the resounding sound of the organ as we each fill our lungs and sing out loud (I won’t be able to resist, so my apologies now to those standing near me). Until then, I will close with a link to a Moravian Church Christmas Eve service with candles and singing – enjoy.