The Holly and the Ivy/Sans Day Carol mp3
[3:36] Solo- Deborah Friou
These carols from England and Cornwall reconcile two potentially conflicting traditions. The use of evergreens to celebrate the Solstice and Christmas is actually of pagan origin. The masculine (holly) and feminine (ivy) elements symbolize the vitality of the life force even in the midst of the cold, dark winter. The word "holly" is derived from the Saxon word for "holy".
Three Sea Captains mp3
The first tune is an Irish set dance and, although not directly related to Christmas or Yuletide, we loved how it went with the English carol, I Saw Three Ships, as well as providing captains for the three ships! The earliest written version of Three Ships appeared in 1666 and depicts the journey of the relics of the three kings.
Soalin' / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen mp3
The practice of begging for "soul cakes", or Soalin', is related to the Wassail / carolling tradition. In this piece we like to contrast the viewpoint of the poor begging from door to door with the lot of the merry gentlemen viewed through the window of the manor house, wanting for nothing.
Glochestershire Wassail mp3
[2:17] Solo- Julia Lane
Each region of England has their own wassail tradition which involves vagabond groups travelling door to door taking turns singing. Hopefully, they receive money or food and drink in exchange for the blessing of the song. Wassail itself is a potent spiced brew and the word means "good health" in Anglo-saxon.
[2:27] Solo- Deborah Friou
Several carols have been written to this tune, the earliest a 17th century version called The Olde Yeare Now Away is Fled
. The original melody has been attributed by some to King Henry VIII. The first setting here was inspired by a version from the Ballet Lute Book c.1590 and the second from the Thysius Lute Book c.1600.
Coventry Carol / Down in Yon Forest mp3
[3:35] Duet- Deborah Friou, wire strung harp / Julia Lane, nylon strung harp
The first in this set of English tunes was the song of the mothers of Bethlehem in the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, one of the 15th century Coventry mystery plays.
The second is a mystical song that weaves allusions from the legend of the Holy Grail into the verses. The fifth stanza refers to the Glastonbury Thorn "which ever blows blossom since he was born". It is said to have grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimethea, bearer of the Holy Grail, and flowers every Christmas.
The Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance mp3
[2:40] Solo- Deborah Friou
The Celtic winter season began with the festival of Samhain on October 31. This time was aligned with the rutting of the deer, a sacred animal. The battle of the stags came to symbolize the age-old battle of the old year with the new and is the basis for the horn dance, which is still performed to this day. During the middle ages, it was traditionally performed at Christmas by dancers wearing deer masks with attached antlers
'Tis Winter Now mp3
Samuel Longfellow, son of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, might have been viewing our own Maine winter landscape when he wrote this poem. Set to a traditional English melody, it describes the sharp, cold wind, the leafless boughs, and the clear skies after the snow falls. He also speaks of the treasure of winter, the crimson dawn, the shimmering beauty of the boughs covered with frost and snow creating "glittering wreathes", and the warmth inside as "home closer draws her circle". We tried to capture that sparkling, delicate winter loveliness in this arrangement.
Lullabies for the Christ Child mp3
[5:10] Solo- Julia Lane, harp and voice
These are two songs with the same image- the Virgin Mary lulls her miraculous son with a quiet song. The first in this pairing, Taladh Chriosta (The Christ Child Lullaby), is a very ancient song from the Scottish Hebrides while the second, Irish Lullaby for the Christ Child, was made from Gaelic prose in 1935 by Irish poet Sam Henry and set to a traditional tune.
Drive Cold Winter Away / Cold and Raw mp3
[4:05] Solo- Deborah Friou / Duet
Drive Cold Winter Away is an early 17th century broadside ballad also known as The Praise of Christmas. This song recommends the season as a time of merriment, music and convivial fireside gatherings with "wassails of nut-brown ale"- "Forgetting old wrongs with carols and songs to drive the cold winter away". It may be a reaction to the time when Cromwell's parliament abolished any celebration of Christmas. Cold & Raw seems to be the earliest name for a tune that has been popular in Scotland and England since the 16th century. It is also known as Stingo and Robert Burns wrote lyrics to it called Up in the Morning Early - all about the "pleasures " of arising early on a cold winter morning.
Nos Galen (Deck the Halls) mp3
In this traditional Welsh New Year's Eve song, merrymakers would dance in a circle around a harper making up verses answered by the harp. Later the harp response was replaced with the nonsense words "fa, la, la, la, la". In the Welsh harp tradition, variations and improvisation are the expectation. This arrangement for two harps was adapted from a version for triple strung harp found in Edward Jones Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards, first appearing in 1794. Deborah's father gave her an edition he bought from an antique book dealer in London.
Carul Loch Garman (The Wexford Carol ) mp3
A carol collected in County Wexford Ireland with English lyrics and a traditional Irish tune. It is said that the melody dates from the 12th century.
Do'n oiche ud i mbeithil (That Night in Bethlehem mp3
[3:21] Solo- Julia Lane
Songs celebrating Christ's birth are rare in the Celtic lands due to religious and political repression. This Gaelic song was apparently preserved in the oral tradition and was documented by Paddy O'Brien who shared it with Irish flute player Cathal McConnell (Boys of the Lough). Julia has arranged it here for harp.
Da Day Dawns / When Christ Was Born mp3
[4:17] Duet- Deborah Friou, wire strung harp & Julia Lane, nylon strung harp
This lovely tune from the Scottish Shetland Islands used to be played at first light on Yule morning. As the music unfolds, one can imagine the early morning light first appearing on the horizon, then increasing in warmth, strength and color with the rising of the sun. It is thought to be an ancient fiddle tune dating from the 15th century.This version was arranged for harp by Scottish harper Patsy Seddon (Sileas, the Poozies) and has been adapted for the wire-strung harp by Deborah. The second song, arranged by Julia, is from the Isle of Mann. It is from a collection of "carvals", or carols, which are 17th and 18th century religious texts set to traditional tunes.
Auld Lang Syne mp3
[3:48] Duet / Julia Lane, soprano
Favorite Scottish poet, Robert Burns, was the author of this popular song that has come to be a tradition on New Year's Eve. Auld Lang Syne means "old times past" in Scots, and "my jo" is Burns' term for "my dear". This arrangement by Deborah starts with the original version of the melody in which she is joined by Julia's vocals. The better known tune is then played and sung before ending with the two harps interweaving both melodies.
Rorate / New Christmas mp3
is a rare Scottish Christmas carol written by William Dunbar, a 16th C Scottish diplomat, former Franciscan and poet. The lovely first verse commands the heavens to rain down the dew "for now is risen the bright Day Star". New Christmas refers to an incident in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the official calendar be adjusted by 11 days to accomodate a cumulative discrepancy in the Julian calendar. The British Isles refused to participate in the alteration, continuing to celebrate "Old Christmas" on January 6 until 1752 when it finally joined the European system. Confusion and rioting were the result. The tune is in the collection of Neil Gow, a renowned 18th century Scottish fiddler.