Here we come a-caroling (yes, it’s April)

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We can all name our favorite Christmas carol, but what about a favorite Easter carol, New Year’s carol, harvest carol or summer carol? The carol is normally a religious song associated with a particular season of the year, and although carols are found in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the carol itself is distinctively English. The original Medieval carol was also distinctive in its form: a burden (or refrain) repeats after each carol verse and was sometimes sung before the first verse as well.

The carol lost popularity in the 18th century, but some credit the fashionable Victorian celebrations of Christmas with its rise and return in the mid-19th century. English music scholars Percy Dearmer, Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams collected and published The Oxford Book of Carols in 1928 in which they provided some new texts for many old tunes. This significant volume has stood the test of time and is still well respected and used today.

“This Joyful Eastertide,” the Parish Choir’s anthem this Sunday (Apr. 19), is a harmonization of a Dutch carol by Irish-born composer Charles Wood (1866-1926). The refrain (or burden) proclaims the Resurrection with its delightful words “Had Christ, that once was slain, never burst his three-day prison, our faith has been in vain: but now is Christ arisen.” Note how each time the word “arisen” repeats and ascends melodically to the end of the carol.

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