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Traditional Christmas Carols

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

October 1st arrived and I was busy typing up some research for the FLCM I am working towards, teaching, developing my programme and getting ready for the next OU course (an M.Ed.) and I decided it was time to compile a Christmas carol book for my piano students. The stories behind the carols are very interesting and, to me, as important as the carols however this year there is not enough time for the stories, this year it is the music. I have selected a set of twenty-five firm favourites that I have taught to my students over the years, one for each day of advent. Additionally there are a few firm favourites that while not carols are essential Christmas repertoire.


The full list is as follows

  • 12 Days of Christmas

  • Angels From the Realms of Glory

  • Auld Lang Syne

  • Away in a manger

  • Ding Dong! Merrily on High

  • Gaudete

  • Go Tell it On the Mountain

  • God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  • Good Christian Men Rejoice

  • Good King Wenceslas

  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing

  • I Saw Thee Ships

  • In Dulci Jubilo

  • In the Bleak Mid Winter

  • Jingle Bells

  • Joy to the World

  • O Come All Ye Faithful

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem

  • Oh Christmas Tree

  • Once in Royal Davids City

  • Pat a Pan

  • Silent Night

  • Sussex Carol

  • The Coventry Carol

  • The First Noel

  • The Holly and the Ivy

  • We Three Kings

  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

  • While Shepherds Watched


While researching these carols I have found some tremendous websites, fascinating historical documents and superb stories which will allow me to develop a Carol Storybook for another year.


As always, from the first edition there are some amendments. For customers who purchased the first edition these are the corrected pages.


The Holly and the Ivy. Anacrusis added,

Holly and the Ivy page 84
.pdf
Download PDF • 787KB

We Three Kings. Full version so the page can be affixed to cover the page turn

We Three Kings Page 87-88
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.02MB

Auld Lang Syne. Full version so the page can be affixed to cover the page turn.

Auld Lang Syne Page 93-94
.pdf
Download PDF • 3.80MB

While Shepherds Watched. The correct words included.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks page 90
.pdf
Download PDF • 803KB

All the amendments in one file

CHRISTMAS CAROLS Adjustments
.pdf
Download PDF • 8.54MB





The list of reference sites I have located can be found below. I have not included any links so please cut and paste the links as required.


Reference list

  • Anonymous (1800). Mirth without Mischief. [online] Internet Archive, pp.4–14. Available at: https://archive.org/details/mirth_without_mischief/page/n3/mode/2up [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Arbeau, T. (1596). Orchésographie. [online] IMSLP, Langres: Lehan des Preyz, pp.92–93. Available at: https://imslp.org/wiki/Orch%C3%A9sographie_(Arbeau,_Thoinot) [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • BBC School Radio. (n.d.). The Story of ‘Silent Night’. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/assemblies-ks1-the-story-of-silent-night-christmas-carol/zrjpxbk [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Blanchard, J. and Buswell Memorial Library, W.C. (IL) (1881). Christian Cynosure. [online] Internet Archive. Chicago, IL: Ezra A. Cook. Available at: https://archive.org/details/christiancynosurv14blan/page/n373/mode/2up?view=theater [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Brantley, T. (2021). The Story Behind: the First Noel. [online] Hymn Charts. Available at: https://www.hymncharts.com/2021/11/29/the-story-behind-the-first-noel/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Burn, C.-S. (1883). Shropshire folk-lore; a Sheaf of gleanings; [online] HathiTrust. Available at: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.39000005759647&seq=339 [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Classic FM. (2020a). ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’: What Are the Lyrics and Who Wrote the carol? [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/we-wish-you-a-merry-christmas-lyrics-history-carol/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2020b). The Lyrics and History of Beloved Carol ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/o-come-all-ye-faithful-lyrics-composer-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2020c). The Lyrics and Meaning behind ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/twelve-12-days-of-christmas-lyrics-meaning/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2020d). We Three Kings: Lyrics and Composer of the Popular Christmas Carol. [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/we-three-kings-lyrics-composer-origins/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2020e). What are the lyrics to ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ – and who composed it? [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/once-in-royal-davids-city-lyrics-composer-history/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2020f). What are the lyrics to ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’, and what’s the story? [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/while-shepherds-watched-their-flocks-carol-lyrics/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Classic FM. (2022a). Gaudete: What are the lyrics to the 16th-century Latin Christmas carol? [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/gaudete-lyrics-latin-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2022b). The Lyrics and Story behind ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’. [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/lyrics-hark-the-herald-angels-sing/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classic FM. (2022c). The real story behind the carol Good King Wenceslas. [online] Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/real-story-good-king-wenceslas-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Classic History (2017). The First Noël - A Christmas Revival. [online] Classic History. Available at: http://www.classichistory.net/archives/first-noel-carol [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Classical Music. (2020). What are the lyrics to ‘Good King Wenceslas’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/good-king-wenceslas-lyrics [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021a). What are the lyrics to ‘Angels From the Realms of Glory’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-are-the-lyrics-to-angels-from-the-realms-of-glory/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021b). What are the lyrics to ‘Ding Dong! Merrily on High’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/ding-dong-merrily-on-high-lyrics/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021c). What are the lyrics to ‘I Saw Three Ships’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/what-are-the-lyrics-to-i-saw-three-ships/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021d). What Are the Lyrics to ‘O Christmas Tree’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-christmas-tree-lyrics/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021e). What Are the Lyrics to 'O Come All Ye Faithful? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/o-come-all-ye-faithful-lyrics/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021f). What Are the Lyrics to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-are-the-lyrics-to-o-little-town-of-bethlehem/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021g). What Are the Lyrics to ‘Once in Royal David’s City’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/royal-davids-city-words [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

    • Classical Music. (2021h). What are the lyrics to the Christmas carol ‘Gaudete’? [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/what-are-the-lyrics-to-the-christmas-carol-gaudete/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Classical Music. (2022). ‘Good Christian men rejoice’ lyrics. [online] Available at: https://www.classical-music.com/features/articles/good-christian-men-rejoice-lyrics/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Comerford, P. (2016). Christmas with Vaughan Williams (13): ‘The Sussex Carol’ (‘On Christmas Night’). [online] PATRICK COMERFORD. Available at: https://www.patrickcomerford.com/2016/01/christmas-with-vaughan-williams-13.html [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • COTS (2015). Preserving Tradition: Tell It On The Mountain! [online] Choir of the Sound. Available at: https://www.choirofthesound.org/preserving-tradition-tell-it-on-the-mountain/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Cranston, M. (2022). Jingle Bells: the Surprising Story behind the Classic Christmas Song. [online] Dig! Available at: https://www.thisisdig.com/feature/jingle-bells-christmas-song-story/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Dalley, J. (2015). The Life of a Song: ‘The Holly and the Ivy’. [online] www.ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/cffe8a12-a4a4-11e5-8218-6b8ff73aae15 [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Debi Simons (2014). A Pair of Geographically-Named Carols from Sussex and Wessex. [online] Behind the Music. Available at: https://www.debisimons.com/a-pair-of-geographically-named-carols-sussex-and-wessex/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Debi Simons (2019). Who Are Willie and Robin in ‘Pat-a-Pan’ and Why Do They Play . . . [online] Behind the Music. Available at: https://www.debisimons.com/who-are-willie-and-robin-in-pat-a-pan-why-do-they-play-the-instruments-that-they-do-and-why-cant-the-tenors-and-basses-ever-catch-a-break/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Diana Leagh Matthews (2017). Behind the Hymn: I Saw Three Ships ⋆ Diana Leagh Matthews. [online] Diana Leagh Matthews. Available at: https://dianaleaghmatthews.com/saw-three-ships/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Dicke, M. (2015). Thoughts on ‘The Sussex Carol’. [online] Jubal’s Lyre. Available at: https://jubalslyre.com/thoughts-on-the-sussex-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Discipleship Ministries. (2013). History of Hymns: ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. [online] Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-o-little-town-of-bethlehem [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Discipleship Ministries. (2018). History of Hymns: ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’. [online] Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-while-shepherds-watched-their-flocks [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Ellis, J. (n.d.). The Holly and the Ivy. [online] Chipping Campden History. Available at: https://www.chippingcampdenhistory.org.uk/content/archives/from-the-archives/the-holly-and-the-ivy [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Estrella, E. (2019). Learn the Origins of the Christmas Carol ‘Jingle Bells’. [online] LiveAbout. Available at: https://www.liveabout.com/jingle-bells-history-2456082 [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Freemantle, R. and Abbott, L. (n.d.). O Christmas Tree - O Tannenbaum - Song by Ernst Anschütz. [online] www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com. Available at: https://www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com/o-christmas-tree.html [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Galaxy Music Notes. (n.d.). Learn About the Christmas Carol ‘The First Noel’. [online] Available at: https://galaxymusicnotes.com/pages/learn-about-the-christmas-carol-the-first-noel [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Galaxy Music Notes. (n.d.). The Traditional English Carol ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’. [online] Available at: https://galaxymusicnotes.com/pages/about-we-wish-you-a-merry-christmas [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Gilbert, D. (1822). Some ancient Christmas carols : with the tunes to which they were formerly sung in the west of England. [online] Internet Archive. London : Printed by J. Nichols and Son. Available at: https://archive.org/details/SomeAncientChristmasCarols/page/n5/mode/2up [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • GodTube. (n.d.). O Come, All Ye Faithful - Lyrics, Hymn Meaning and Story. [online] Available at: https://www.godtube.com/popular-hymns/o-come-all-ye-faithful/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Great British Life. (2010). The Origins of the Sussex Carol. [online] Available at: https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/homes-and-gardens/places-to-live/22604789.origins-sussex-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Hawn, D. (2013a). History of Hymns: ‘Good Christian Friends, Rejoice’. [online] Discipleship Ministries. Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-good-christian-friends-rejoice.

  • Hawn, D. (n.d.). History of Hymns: ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’. [online] Discipleship Ministries. Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-angels-from-the-realms-of-glory [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Hawn, D. (2013b). History of Hymns: ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. [online] Discipleship Ministries. Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-in-the-bleak-midwinter [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Hawn, M. (2019). History of Hymns: ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’. [online] Discipleship Ministries. Available at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/history-of-hymns-god-rest-you-merry-gentleman.

  • Henderson, W. (1879). Notes on the folk-lores. [online] Internet Archive, London : Pub. for the Folk-lore Society by W. Satchell, Peyton, pp.70–71. Available at: https://archive.org/details/notesonfolkloreo00hendiala/page/70/mode/2up?view=theater [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023]. Notes on the folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders.

  • Hendry, M. (2022). Hymn History: Angels From the Realms of Glory. [online] Enjoying the Journey. Available at: https://enjoyingthejourney.org/hymn-history-angels-from-the-realms-of-glory/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Hymnary.org. (n.d.). Go, Tell It on the Mountain. [online] Available at: https://hymnary.org/text/while_shepherds_kept_their_watching [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • IMSLP. (n.d.). We Three Kings of Orient Are. [online] Available at: https://imslp.org/wiki/We_Three_Kings_(Hopkins_Jr.,_John_Henry) [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Interesting Literature. (2018a). A Short Analysis of the Christmas Carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. [online] Available at: https://interestingliterature.com/2018/12/a-short-analysis-of-the-christmas-carol-once-in-royal-davids-city/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Interesting Literature. (2018b). A Short Analysis of the Christmas Carol ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’. [online] Available at: https://interestingliterature.com/2018/11/a-short-analysis-of-the-christmas-carol-while-shepherds-watched-their-flocks/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Jennings, R. (2018). How ‘Coventry Carol,’ a lullaby about killing babies, became a Christmas song. [online] Vox. Available at: https://www.vox.com/2018/12/19/18138242/coventry-carol-history-plays [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Klein, C. (2016). 8 Things You May Not Know about ‘Jingle Bells’. [online] History. Available at: https://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-jingle-bells [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Kraby, C. (2019). Hymn Story: O Little Town of Bethlehem. [online] ReasonableTheology.org. Available at: https://reasonabletheology.org/hymn-story-o-little-town-bethlehem/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Lathan, S. (2021). The Holly and The Ivy, an Old English Christmas Carol. [online] Sharon Lathan, Novelist. Available at: https://sharonlathanauthor.com/the-holly-and-the-ivy-an-old-english-christmas-carol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Lewis, R. (2017). Auld Lang Syne | History & Lyrics. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Auld-Lang-Syne [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Lewis, S. (2020). The Story behind the Beloved Christmas Carol ‘Silent Night’. [online] WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source. Available at: https://www.wrti.org/arts-desk/2020-12-19/the-story-behind-the-beloved-christmas-carol-silent-night [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Lisa, M. (2005). ‘Patapan’, a Christmas Carol from Burgundy, France (in French, Burgundian and English) with an MP3 Recording. [online] Mama Lisa’s World of Children and International Culture. Available at: https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/patapan-a-christmas-carol-from-burgundy-france-in-french-burgundian-and-english-with-an-mp3-recording/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Longanecker, J. (2016). Story Behind: Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Christmas Carols. [online] James River Church. Available at: https://jamesriver.church/blog/story-behind-hark-herald-angels-sing [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Mackay, P. (n.d.). BBC - Robert Burns - Auld Lang Syne. [online] BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/auld_lang_syne/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • Moore, S. (2021). The Lyrics and Composer of Christmas Carol ‘Joy to the World’. [online] Classic FM. Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/joy-to-the-world-hymn-carol-lyrics-composer/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Music, P. (2020). Joy To The World Hymn - Lyrics And the Story Behind It. [online] Phamox Music. Available at: https://phamoxmusic.com/joy-to-the-world/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Oron, A. (2018). Chorale Melody: In dulcio jubilo. [online] www.bach-cantatas.com. Available at: https://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Z4947.htm [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

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  • Phillips, W.J. and Cornell University Library (1921). Carols; their origin, music, and connection with mystery-plays. [online] Internet Archive. London, G. Routledge, New York, E.

  • P. Dutton. Available at: https://archive.org/details/cu31924021762939/page/n21/mode/2up [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].

  • Pittaway, I. (2019). Coventry Carol: the power of a song. [online] Early Music Muse. Available at: https://earlymusicmuse.com/coventrycarol/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Prior, K.S. (2017). The Remarkable Woman behind ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. [online] The Gospel Coalition. Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-remarkable-woman-behind-in-the-bleak-midwinter/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Sanfilippo, P. (2017). Go Tell It on the Mountain — Decades of Struggle, a Dedicated Bookworm, and University. [online] Medium. Available at: https://petersanfilippo.medium.com/go-tell-it-on-the-mountain-decades-of-struggle-a-dedicated-bookworm-and-university-52fa28f9e2b0 [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Schnedler, L. (n.d.). he Story Behind "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. [online] Available at: https://www.branchliving.com/new-blog/2021/12/12/the-story-behind-god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen. [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Shaw Roberts, M. (2021). What are the lyrics to ‘Ding Dong! Merrily on High’? [online] Classic FM. Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/ding-dong-merrily-on-high-lyrics-meaning/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Solomon, R. (2019). Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. [online] Our Daily Bread Ministries. Available at: https://ourdailybread.org/article/hark-the-herald-angels-sing/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Songfacts. (n.d.). God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. [online] Available at: https://www.songfacts.com/facts/traditional/god-rest-you-merry-gentlemen [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

  • Studwell, W.E. (William E. (1995). The Christmas Carol Reader. [online] Internet Archive, New York : Haworth Press, p.75. Available at: https://archive.org/details/christmascarolre0000stud/page/n3/mode/2up [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • The Parish of St Maximilian Kolbe, Leeds. (n.d.). S Francis of Assisi. [online] Available at: https://www.stmaximiliankolbeparishleeds.co.uk/st-francis-of-assisi/#:~:text=Francis%20of%20Assisi%20died%20on [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].

  • VisitScotland. (n.d.). Auld Lang Syne: Its writer, History and How to Sing along. [online] Available at: https://www.visitscotland.com/inspiration/culture/auld-lang-syne [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • weldonturnercom (2018). The Origins of Christmas Carols. [online] Weldon Turner. Available at: https://www.weldonturner.com/the-origins-of-christmas-carols/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].

  • Widmaier, T. (2007). O Tannenbaum — Liederlexikon. [online] www.liederlexikon.de. Available at: https://www.liederlexikon.de/lieder/o_tannenbaum [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • ‘Wish you a merry Christmas’ (Leeds, 1888). (1888). The Leeds Mercury, [online] 15 Dec., p.13. Available at: https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-leeds-mercury-wish-you-a-merry-chri/24517577/ [Accessed 5 Oct. 2023].

  • WQXR. (2017). The True Story of ‘Silent Night’ | WQXR Editorial. [online] Available at: https://www.wqxr.org/story/true-story-silent-night/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2023].

Comments


Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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