Wexford Carol

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Wexford Carol
Genre Christmas carol
Meter 8.8.8.8 (L.M.D.)
Melody Traditional Irish folk melody, transcribed by William Grattan Flood

The Wexford Carol (Irish: Carúl Loch Garman, Carúl Inis Córthaidh) is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol originating from County Wexford and, specifically, Enniscorthy (whence its other name).[1] The subject of the song is that of the nativity of Jesus Christ.

W. H. Grattan Flood transcription[edit]

"The Wexford Carol", sometimes known by its first verse "Good people all this Christmas time", is one of the oldest extant Christmas carols. The song achieved a renewed popularity due to the work of William Grattan Flood (1859-1928), who was organist and musical director at St. Aidan's Cathedral in Enniscorthy. He transcribed the carol from a local singer and had it published in the Oxford Book of Carols, putting Enniscorthy into most carol books around the world.

Bard Francis, of the SCA medieval society comments:

This lovely tune, remarkable for its haunting Mixolydian mode form, is unlikely to be 12th century. The words are maybe older than the tune, which likely came from the wave of Irish Music during the late 18th and through the entire 19th century, American Civil War period. Such rhyming words and tune structure had not been invented sufficiently in the 12th century, and it looks more like the 16th if it can be proven to be earlier than the 18-19th.*(Francis is assuming the original words were written in English but were most likely in Irish)

The Mixolydian mode can be played with only two chords one step apart on lute or guitar, which makes it an easy and wonderful performance piece for good singers but beginning players. Celtic Woman does it in D and C chords, though there are variations out there.

For the most likely oldest Christmas hymn, I suggest it may be "O Gladsome Light" with words from the 3rd century, tune possibly the 8th as a Nunc Dimittis. Source "Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal," by Pollock. Also the still popular "O Come Emmanuel" may have been written about that time. The main problem is that these ancient Christian tunes, unlike the Celtic tunes, usually had a long oral tradition in the church before musical notation became understandable around the 14th century.

Modern performance[edit]

Traditions abound concerning the song, for example that only men should sing it. However, many popular female artists, such as Julie Andrews in 1966 and Loreena McKennitt in 1987, have recorded versions of it, the former including an additional verse beginning "And buckets yore did rain that night." Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss recorded the song for Ma's 2008 holiday album, Songs of Joy and Peace. Michael McDonald (singer) covered it on his 2009 album This Christmas as a duet with his wife Amy Holland, using only the first three of the traditional verses. The carol featured as title track on the 2014 collection of traditional Irish Carols The Wexford Carols by the Irish early-music singer Caitríona O'Leary, with Tom Jones and Rosanne Cash. Irish folksinger Cara Dillon featured the song on her 2016 album Upon a Winter's Night. The Irish group Celtic Women included the Wexford Carol on their 2006 Christmas album. The English boy choir Libera performed an arrangement of the carol on their 2013 album, Angels Sing: Christmas in Ireland, recorded at Armagh Cathedral. Country artist Trace Adkins also recorded a version of the hymn on his 2013 Christmas album The King's Gift. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed an arrangement by conductor Mack Wilberg on its 2016 album Hallelujah!. The most recent performance was performed on November 28, 2017 by renowned flautist Ashley Snell in Leonard Auditorium at Wofford College.

English lyrics[edit]

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.
The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall.
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God's angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.[2]

Irish Lyrics[edit]

Ó, tagaig' uile is adhraigí
An leanbh cneasta sa chró 'na luí
Is cuimhnígí ar ghrá an Rí
A thug dár saoradh anocht an Naí.
'S a Mhuire Mháthair i bParrthas Dé,
Ar chlann bhocht Éabha guigh 'nois go caomh,
Is doras an chró ná dún go deo
Go n-adhram' feasta Mac Mhuire Ógh.
I mBeithil thoir i lár na hoích'
Ba chlos an deascéala d'aoirí,
Go follas don saol ón spéir go binn
Bhí aingle 'canadh ó rinn go rinn.
"Gluaisig' go beo," dúirt Aingeal Dé,
"Go Beithil sall is gheobhaidh sibh É
'Na luí go séimh i mainséar féir,
Siúd É an Meisias a ghráigh an saol."[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Enniscorthy Carol
  3. ^ "Ceol na Nollag" issued in Dublin by Cló Chaisil in cooperation with Foras na Gaeilge

External links[edit]