Sunday, 17 December 2017

Advent, door seventeen

Right, door number seventeen, and behind it lurks a carol everybody knows... but not as you normal hear it. For a start, this tune to 'Wild Shepherds' ain't the hymn book one, but a very rousing setting more suited to the words, when you think about it. And it has an urgent, insistent accompaniment too - a kind of 'come on shepherds, hurry up!' motif that speaks of all the excitement and wonder of the message the angels are delivering. Well it does to me.

It's also an interesting example of a folk carol. I've said before that carols weren't originally intended to be sung in church (some were later written for it, once the others had started to become popular). In fact, they were rather looked down on by respectable society. Which is why I always feel they sound better sung with an earthy gusto rather than in the beautifully refined tones and perfect vowels of, say, Kings College, Cambridge.

There's a place for the latter, of course - and a very distinguished place at that. But a choirboy's fluting treble isn't all there is to a Christmas carol; in fact, it wasn't anything to do with it for many centuries. And it's nice to be reminded of that from time to time.

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