Carol, Carol and more Carols …

Copyright BBC

A programme that you may be interested tomorrow evening (9th December) is:

Lucy Worsley’s Christmas Carol Odyssey

It is on BBC Four at 9pm.

The blurb on the BBC web site says:

Lucy Worsley reveals that there’s much more to our best-loved carols than meets the eye. She reveals how their stories add up to a special kind of history of Christmas itself. In the ancient past, the wassail, a pagan fertility ritual, gave us door-to-door carol singing. Wassailing was also an integral part of an older midwinter festival that was adopted by Christianity when it came to Britain, and was rebranded as ‘Christmas’.

Religion, however, soon turned its back on carols. They were far too frivolous for the Puritans, who wanted to ban Christmas altogether. In strict Protestant Britain, the carol survived outside the Church and new ones turned up in some surprising places. Lucy visits the British Library, where she discovers an 18th-century children’s book that contains a little memory game called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas carols could also be politically dangerous and subversive. 

Eventually, the Church of England couldn’t resist the power of the carol, and finally opened its doors to all of them, thanks to a chance pairing of words and music in Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In the 20th century, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s passion for English folk music took him to the villages of Surrey.

Finally, in the snowy Austrian Alps, Lucy discovers the simple story of a young parish priest with a poem in search of a tune. When he found one, the result was Silent Night. During the First World War, this simple carol would become a hymn for peace during the famous Christmas truce of 1914. Silent Night also reminds us that carols are, and have always been, ‘popular music’, music for the people, fulfilling an enduring need to celebrate and sing together at Christmas.

Copyright BBC

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