Advent Calendar Day 24: Masters in this Hall

To contrast with the serenity of yesterday’s carol, I couldn’t resist sharing this cheerfully energetic carol, with its little social justice message in the chorus.  There are many, many versions of this carol out there, and I am decidedly partial to the Willcocks arrangement, which has a deliciously grandiose orchestral part and a totally ridiculous descant.  When I was in Germany last year, I heard a version of this in French that was definitely not a Christmas carol (the words I was able to discern suggested more of drinking song, though my vocabulary was not up to figuring out details, especially when sung in a German accent), and indeed the carol is supposedly French in origin, and a dance tune (as is clear from this particular version of the carol).

My survey of YouTube brought me to this gorgeous arrangement, sung by the Robert Shaw chorale, with entirely different words to the ones I know.  While I miss the medieval instruments, it definitely has the required level of jauntiness and cheer!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Advent Calendar Day 11 – El Cant Dels Ocells

I was going to post this song later in the week, but given my accidental Basque theme, I couldn’t resist adding some Catalan to the mix.  This piece is a traditional Catalan carol which I found by accident when looking for a different bird-related carol in honour of my sister-in-law’s birthday tomorrow.  (Happy pre-birthday, Tan!)  It’s hard to find a perfect arrangement of this one, but I think my favourite one is this one, sung by a Catalonian boys’ choir. I love their soloist, and the gentle harmonies of the arrangement.

If you are partial to a more operatic / romantic version of this piece, then here’s a version in English, sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale. Lyrics are below. It’s rather a lovely translation, but obviously the demands of scansion kept it from being a very literal one. There is, however, a pretty good translation on Wikipedia.

“When in the Eastern skies the wondrous star did rise and fill the earth with splendor, came birds in joyful throng to sound their dainty song in a carol sweet and tender. Hosanna to the child and to his mother mild, full reverently to render! 

The kingly eagle came to praise his holy name in mighty proclamation. The sparrow then replied, “tonight is Christmastide, a night of jubilation.” Then robin redbreast sang , “now death has lost its sting, in Christ is our salvation.” 

The nightingale sang sweet, the lovely babe to greet, in Mary’s arms he’s lying. The cuckoo and the quail flew over hill and dale in admiration vying. The barn owl’s eyes were dim, such radiance blinded him, and homeward he went flying.”

And if you’d just like an instrumental version on cello with pretty pictures of birds, try this one. It’s pretty gorgeous.

Except that actually, that last one has a bit more to it than that.   I didn’t realise this when I started hunting for bird-related carols, but this particular song – and particularly the version by Pau Casals – became emblematic of both peace and of Catalonian independence.  You can read what he had to say about it here.

(Nope, I wasn’t expecting politics on this blog either.  Sorry.  But it was turning into a rather large elephant in a very small room, and not acknowledging it seemed worse…)