26 December 2008

12 Songs of Christmas - Song #7

Happy Boxing Day !

The Coventry Carol is another trip back to the 16th century, and to me (and apparently nobody else) it’s always been part of a trio of similar pieces, alongside the Sussex Carol  and Wexford Carol . It may be that I heard all three pieces for the first time together when I was in England, but I don't really recall. The Coventry Carol is by far my favourite of the three, possibly because it has a strong element of sorrow and loss to it. Christmas is of course a time of celebration -- whether you're throwing Baby Jesus a birthday party or just congratulating yourself for making it through the entire year -- but it's also a time of remembrance, and not enough Christmas songs tend to focus on that aspect.

My favourite version of the Coventry Carol is by a musical theatre performer named Elaine Page, but amazingly no video version exists, and many of the videos of it that do exist get it totally wrong.

The Sussex Carol video isn’t really much a video (here’s a good choral one if you prefer), but it’s a charming and intimate version from the Albion Band circa 1976. Albion, along with Steeleye Span, Incredible String Band and the Amazing Blondel formed a mini-movement of British folk bands who revitalised and reinvented traditional English Folke Musicke.

The Wexford Carol is actually the oldest of the three, dating back to the 12th century. It's my least favourite of the three pieces.

What follows is the best video versions I could find of two of the three pieces, starting with the Coventry Carol, then the Sussex Carol. I was unable to find a satisfactory version of the Wexford Carol.

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