From Oxford professor and renowned British composer, a joyous account of the history behind our favorite carols.
Everyone loves a carol-in the end, even Ebenezer Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of mid-winter mood, like the aroma of gingerbread or the twinkle of lights on a tree. It's a kind of magic.
But how did they get that magic? Andrew Gant-choirmaster, church musician, university professor, and writer-tells the story of twenty of our favorite carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating, and often surprising, tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys and choirboys. Readers get to delve into the history such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas," "Away in a Manger," and "O, Tannenbaum," discovering along the way how "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" came to replace "Hark, how all the welkin' ring" and how Ralph Vaughan Williams applied the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a nineteenth century American pilgrim to make "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
A charming book that brims with anecdote, expert knowledge, and Christmas spirit, this is a fittingly joyous account of one of the best-loved musical traditions.
I really like the lay out of the book, that instead of just talking about carols, it talked about the carols in regards to the Christmas Season. In this book you will find 21 hymns, divided into 14 sections. These sections follow the entire Christmas Season from Advent through to Christmas Day to Epiphany. I learned that December 26 is also known as St. Steven's Day.
In this book Andrew Gant focus is to draw people into the songs of the street, the carols that people would sing walking through the streets. These are not the hymns made for singing in church, but the carols that everyday people would sing, that some, over time have become acceptable to sing in church. :)
I would not call the book an easy read. It delves into the history of each of the carols with each chapter ending with the musical score and the most commonly sung verses. But if you are looking to get a thorough history on some of the songs and discover the difficulty in learning the origins of some of them.
It was interesting to read the history to "I Saw Three Ships"...learning that using the "I" was unusual as most did a collective "we" in songs. The very original version of this carol started with one ship, and by the time it became more accepted it had three... as it is widely assumed there where three wisemen (when we actually don't know how many there were)... or it could be a reference to the Trinity.
That's the thing about looking at these old carols...words change, the beat they are in changes sometimes fro 4/4 time to 3/4 time... sometimes it is due to the fact the composer was uneducated musically but liked to sing, and sometimes it changed as the song went from one place to another.
If you are looking for a book that thoroughly looks at the history of some of the Christmas songs that we know and love, this book does exactly that. You can see the delight of the author as he learns the history of the carols.