How potent

I particularly detest the theology of Mrs Alexander (All Things Bright and Beautiful, There is a Green Hill) but despite that I love to hear the boy’s voice ring out clear the first line of my least-favourite carol on Christmas Eve – Once in royal David’s city.

How complex our relationships with festivals and songs are. (Strange, how potent cheap music). A friend has been trying to negotiate her way around a minefield of unhelpful theology, modern gender bias and plumb awful words.

I have two very very favourite carols. The first is the Chester Nuns song – it is unhelpfully in Latin with no modern translation, but words run something like ‘the King who made the skies, the Lord of all ages and eternities, is born in a stable. Among the animals lies the glory of the world’ and it details Joseph buying the swaddling clothes, and Mary kissing and cuddling her baby. There are lots of songs on the theme, but it is beautifully simple. The other favourite is ‘While shepherd’s watched’ not to the usual dreary tune, but to ‘Cranbrook’ better known as ‘On Ilkley Moor’. It is a wholly different thing, though we still get goodwill to men, I fear.

Oh, and one more, the incomparable ‘Christians, awake, salute the happy morn’ with its delightful ‘enlightened shepherds’.
So join in – what are those you enjoy, or approve of, or disapprove of and still enjoy, or…..


8 responses to “How potent

  1. While shepherds watched will be sung to Cranbrook in St Mary’s on Christmas Day just as it should be. Right after we’ve sung Christians awake.

  2. In Dulce Jubilo, in the ?8?-part arrangement with the ravishing solo bits. In the Bleak Midwinter. And Gabriel’s Message arranged by John.
    Never ask a chorister!

  3. rosemaryhannah

    Tragically, I will be in Bristol – at a tiny church in among high rise flats, with a hard working young woman priest whose sure pastoral touch, and two solid rows of teenagers, impressed me incredibly last year. I fear no Cranbrook, no enlightened shepherds…. however my own daughter, carrying her unborn son…..

  4. rosemaryhannah

    In the bleak mid-winter lovely – hope they don’t axe the verse with a breast full of milk.

  5. _Once in Royal_ needs to be the Wilcox arrangement, where you can hear the organist tie their hands inside-out in a knot on the first 3 chords.

    My grandmother was fond of _In the Bleak_.

    I rather liked _O come O come, Emmanuel_ on Sunday though. That might have to be a favourite now.

    There’s something about the idea of Christmas maybe being applicable, as well as celebrated, in Bristol that appeals to me, dunno why…

  6. I must confess that I enjoy the moralising of Once in Royal and I agree with others above that In the Bleak Midwinter is very beautiful. I prefer the upbeat ones, Hark the Herald or O Little Town of Bethlehem. I am just grateful when I hear something that is not a hideous secular Christmas song.

  7. rosemaryhannah

    Moralising urgh urgh urgh.

    But In the Bleak Midwinter has real words. You need real words. Especially if you are (like me) only tangentially musical.

  8. I love most carols, I did always feel that ‘in the bleak mid winter’ rather let our nieghbours who were shepherds off the hook. I love the music of ‘it came apon a midnight clear’, and also the tune of once in royal david city, of and I do love the holly and the ivy.

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