Monday, 9 November 2009

Christmas Carols & Fantastic Fireworks

Saturday was one of those days which ends in a cloud of happiness. Firstly I attended a Forgotten Carols workshop led by Ali Burns - a descendant of Robert Burns - who has found and researched a wealth of traditional seasonal songs. She's also set many of the texts she's found to her own music, including one of our choir's favourites, The Field Mice's Carol.

We were based at Holy Trinity Church in Trowbridge for the day. It had just been painted and had a cosy, welcoming feel owing to the unusual choice of shades of reds and pinks for the decor. We learnt five new songs, all very different: from our merry start with Sing Nowell! through to the oldest, Christ Has My Hart, Ay dating from 1567 which was an amalgamation of two Scottish texts.

Ali wove tales of how she found the songs and their origins into our day and I was surprised to learn there are very few Christmas songs originating from Scotland. We also sang a completely different version - words and tune - of The Holly and the Ivy, where we learned that holly represents man, and ivy woman. In some songs the holly dominates and in the others, ivy and Ali thinks this reflects a shift between male and female dominated societies during Medieval times. It was an absolutely fascinating and uplifting workshop, which I'll be returning to for our next Garden Bloggers' Muse Day :)

In the evening we were invited up on Solsbury Hill - the location of last year's Barefoot Picnic - for a firework party. This was a fundraiser for Jamie's Farm, a local charity which started in 2008, aiming to help vulnerable youngsters. Jamie Fielden was a teacher in London and noticed a vast change in a number of his more challenging pupils when he brought some sheep from his parents farm into his school. Now he's developing that idea much further through his own farm and charity just outside Bath.

Our hosts Andrew and Annette put on a fine spread for us plus a firework display set to music. Andrew's been keen to have our choir sing to fireworks for a while now, so we had to work for our supper. Around 40 of us gathered at the top of the hill to sing Shine and Imagine from our Sing for Water repertoire to some of the more quieter fireworks in the display. Another uplifting experience, but very different to the one earlier in the day!

9 comments:

  1. what a lovely day! the holly & the ivy is one of my favorite christmas songs. i would be interested in reading the interpretations for the different lyrics. my favorite christmas hymn is we three kings. unfortuneately, it seems to be a hymn out of favor! i also like gran'ma got ran over by a reindeer:) hope the sound system was working during the fireworks.

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  2. What a marvelous day, VP! I love Christmas carols, and though the majestic ones will always hold my heart, I also adore those that are more obscure (to us Americans, at any rate), such as "I Wonder as I Wander," "The Cherry Tree Carol" and "Gabriel's Message."

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  3. I love Christmas carols (they're about the only thing I actually like about Christmas anymore), and it sounds like it was a very fun day. It's interesting how a text can have different settings, and also how a tune can have different texts depending on the season. (Early music recycling?) Choral signing is such a delight. My current favorite semi-obscure Christmas Carol is "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree."

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  4. Sounds like a happy, happy day. I'm like MMD, in the comment above mine: I love Christmas carols morning noon and night during the season, as well as a good Christmas tree in the window. Kinda grinchy about the materialistic side of the holiday, though...

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  5. I love the Apple Tree carol too.

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  6. Nothing like getting into the festive season early then. Sounds like you had a great time.

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  7. Oh VP, that sounds utterly marvellous. Just my sort of thing. Tonight was the first night of rehearsal for the Christmas Carols in the Church where, in my village, the women sing with the men in the male voice choir. Three songs in Welsh is a bit of a stretch for my very new language skills but the sound is so perfect it is great to be part of it.

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  8. What a really interesting post and a great time you had.

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  9. Petoskystone - until I joined the choir, I'd never really enjoyed The Holly and the Ivy - I got rather bored with the chorus. Our choir's version is much better and Saturday's more so as it dispnesed with my loathed chorus!

    OFB - now I need to investigate those carols you mentioned :)

    MMD - I must look up that one too, thank you

    Susan - I'm kinda grinchy about all that stuff too, especially before December 1st.

    EE - see everyone knows it apart from me!

    Joanne - we have to start early with carols (and I do gladly because I like them and in spite of my previous remarks about Christmas being just for December) because our Christmas concert's in just over 4 weeks time. It takes us about 6 sessions to get our songs to performance standard and as we meet weekly, we need to start in November!

    Elizabethm - we tackle several languages in one performance usually. We've yet to do anything in Welsh though. Fancy teaching me your carols? It must be fantastic to perform with a Welsh male voice choir :)

    Hermes - we certainly did. We made the non-attendees very jealous at choir last night.

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