Christmas carols are some of my favorite things. I enjoy singing and hearing them because of their joyousness and their message. There is so much good theology – a clear message about Christ's birth and purpose, in so many of the older, well-written carols. Let's not talk about Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer or roasting chestnuts right now.
I love finding unusual collections of carols in music books and on recordings. I just switched all sixty slots in my CD player over to my Christmas collection. It plays throughout the day (except when I am trying to think to write) and brings peace and loveliness.
It is no co-incidence that my middle name is Carol. My older sister wanted a baby sister for Christmas. I arrived in November, and she chose that part of my name.
I remember, when I was in grade school, taking part in our E.U.B. church's Christmas concert. I was seated, in my new red dress, in the choir loft, and introduced each song with a short history of the carol's writing and use. That was a memorable night. I still can picture the carolers in black, white and red on the cover of the carol-book.
Many caroling parties come to mind. Those with Youth Fellowship, and other groups in Amherst, Ohio, and my last with a group of adults from the C&MA church in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. That was on a lovely night with snow on the ground and homes decorated with twinkling lights. My adult daughter, Lauren, and I walked the neighborhoods together, then enjoyed refreshments and fellowship with friends.
Years ago, when my then husband was in the army, I was asked to play the organ for the Christmas concert at a large Methodist church we were attending in Augusta, Georgia. From the time I was very young, in my home church, I had played piano, and sometimes, organ for services.
All these scenes blend into a cherished happy glow of remembrance. The caroling in my life now takes the form of my welcoming Girl Scouts and church groups singing at my door, here at the assisted living facility where I live, The Inn at Chappel Creek.
I'm sure you have happy memories of Christmases past and of the music that is part of your treasury
I was reading the preface to The Oxford Book of Carols, which has one-hundred ninety-seven carols dating from several centuries ago through the 1900's.
Here are a few of the interesting comments noted by Percy Dearmer who worked with R. Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw on the collection published by Oxford University Press, London:
Carols are songs with a religious impulse that are simple, hilarious, popular, and modern.
The word ‘carol' has a dancing origin, and once meant to dance in a ring.
The common carol gives voice to the common emotions of healthy people in language that can be understood and music that can be shared by all. Because it is popular it is therefore genial as well as simple; it dances because it is so Christian, echoing St. Paul's conception of the fruits of the Spirit in its challenge to be merry – ‘Love and joy come to you.' Indeed, to take life with real seriousness is to take it joyfully, for seriousness is only sad when it is superficial: the carol is thus all the nearer to the ultimate truth because it is jolly.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to find any example of an authentic carol which can with certainty be dated earlier than 1400 (Chaucer's roundel of c. 1382, has to be arranged in order to be sung as a carol.) Professor Saintsbury, indeed, says definitely that the oldest of our carols date from the fifteenth century.
The carol arose with the ballad in the fifteenth century, because people wanted something less severe than the old Latin office hymns, something more vivacious than the plainsong melodies.
By no means, all the carols are about Christmas. Some are on the Annunciation, Baptism of Christ, the Passion, the Eucharist, and Easter.
Percy Dearmer concludes his comments with "What might be done with carols? On every Sunday, in the place of the anthem, or after service, glorious carols can be sung by the choir, the people joining in the refrains, or singing the third and subsequent alternate verses. Perhaps nothing is just now of such importance as to increase the element of Joy in religion; people crowd in our churches at the Christmas, Easter, and Harvest Festivals, largely because the hymns for those occasions are full of a sound hilarity; if carol-books were in continual use, that most Christian and most forgotten element would be vastly increased, in some of its loveliest forms, all through the year." P.D. 1928
"Love and joy come to you."
© 2002 Nancy Spiegelberg
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