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CHRISTMAS CAROLS (Donald Hunt/ Raymond Johnston/ Robert Stringer/ Worcester Cathedral Choir) (Naxos: 8.550589)

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The carol had its origin in the medieval dance-song. The legend of the unfortunate dancers, condemned by an angry priest to dance for a year, for their neglect of religious duties, is well known. The Christmas carol, as one example of popular religious song, has its origin too in the Middle Ages, but now often wears a distinctly contemporary dress. The present Christmas collection brings together modern arrangements of traditional carols, together with examples of the form from the heyday of domestic English carolling in the 19th century.

Joy to the world, better known in the United States of America, is derived from Handel, and is based, initially and very simply, on the notes of the descending scale. The famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols established earlier in the present century at King's College, Cambridge, traditionally opens with the singing in procession of the Victorian Once in royal David's city, a setting by the nineteenth century English organist Henry John Gauntlett of words by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander. Gauntlett nearly became a pupil of Mozart's pupil and Mendelssohn's friend Attwood, but instead turned to the law, and practised as a solicitor. He took lessons, however, from Samuel Wesley, and played the organ in the first Birmingham performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah.

O little town of Bethlehem is by Walford Davies with words by the nineteenth century American Bishop Philips Brooks, while The Cherry Tree Carol has a traditional English origin, the folk-tune here arranged by Donald Hunt. In the bleak mid-winter, a setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti, has music by Gustav Holst, who arranged the traditional Sing aloud. Away in a manger is equally well known in two different versions. The setting better known in England is that by the American gospel music composer William James Kirkpatrick. The tune for the anonymous words is here arranged by Donald Hunt. Joys Seven is another traditional carol, the setting arranged by Stephen Cleobury of King's College, Cambridge.

I wonder as I wander, arranged by Donald Hunt, and Jesus, Jesus, rest your head, arranged by Arthur Warrell, are taken from Appalachia, a rich source of original folk-song material, inherited from early settlers. In dulci jubilo, a German fourteenth century macaronic carol, alternating Latin and vernacular words, is sung in a familiar nineteenth century arrangement by the antiquarian English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall. O little one sweet is familiar in J. S. Bach's harmonization of a melody by his seventeenth century compatriot Samuel Scheidt.

The Shepherds' Rocking Carol is of Czech origin, a Christmas lullaby, and Ding dong! Merrily on high, with English words by G. R. Woodward, uses a sixteenth century French dance tune. O come, all ye faithful, in its English version, is of composite authorship, with music of probable eighteenth century provenance, arranged by David Willcocks.

The Coventry Carol is taken from the fifteenth century Pageant of Shearmen and Tailors, lamenting at the same time the Massacre of the Holy Innocents and while advertising the Shearmen's own wares, scissors, knives and shears. As I outrode is an English traditional carol and Unto us is born a son, a Latin carol of the fifteenth century, appears in the well known German collection Piae Cantiones, published in 1582.

The anthology ends with Mendelssohn's Hark, the herald angels sing, adapted by W. H. Cumming, from a festival choral composition, here arranged by David Willcocks and Donald Hunt's arrangement of Silent Night, its original German words written by Joseph Mohr in 1818, with a melody of the same date by Franz Gruber. The music of Stille Nacht was written on Christmas eve, presumably for performance at Midnight Mass at the church of St. Nicholas at Oberndorf, where Gruber was organist and choirmaster. On this first occasion the organ broke down, and a guitar was used in accompaniment.

Donald Hunt

Donald Hunt was appointed Director of Music at Worcester Cathedral in 1975, after a number of years in a similar position at Leeds Parish Church, where he built his reputation as a choral and orchestral conductor, working also with the Leeds Festival chorus, Leeds Philharmonic Society and Halifax Choral Society and serving as Leeds City Organist and as a lecturer at the Leeds College of Music. In 1975 he was awarded a doctorate by Leeds University in recognition of his services to music in the city. Donald Hunt was born in Gloucester and as a boy was a chorister in the cathedral choir and later, at the age of seventeen, assistant organist, learning much from his teacher Herbert Sumsion and thus forging a direct link with the tradition of Elgar. He continues an active career as a conductor locally and internationally, with frequent broadcasts and many recordings as a conductor and recitalist and regular responsibility for the Three Choirs Festival of England's West Country.

Disc: 1
Joy to the World
1 The Noon Witch, B. 196, Op. 108
Once in Royal David's City
2 The Golden Spinning Wheel (Das goldene Spinnrad /
O Little Town of Bethlehem
3 The Wild Dove (Die Waldtaube / La colombe), Op. 11
The Cherry Tree Carol (arr. Donald Hunt)
4 The Cherry Tree Carol (arr. Donald Hunt)
In the Bleak Midwinter
5 In the Bleak Midwinter
Sing Aloud (arr. Gustav Holst)
6 Sing Aloud (arr. Gustav Holst)
Away in a Manger (arr. Donald Hunt)
7 Away in a Manger (arr. Donald Hunt)
Joys Seven (arr. Stephen Cleobury)
8 Joys Seven (arr. Stephen Cleobury)
I Wonder as I Wander
9 I Wonder as I Wander
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
10 Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
In dulci jubilo (arr. R. L. Pearsall)
11 In dulci jubilo (arr. R. L. Pearsall)
O Little One Sweet (arr. J. S. Bach)
12 O Little One Sweet (arr. J. S. Bach)
13 Rocking
Ding, Dong, Merrily On High
14 Ding, Dong, Merrily On High
O Come, All Ye Faithful (arr. David Willcocks)
15 O Come, All Ye Faithful (arr. David Willcocks)
Coventry Carol
16 Coventry Carol
As I Outrode
17 As I Outrode
Unto Us is Born a Son (arr. David Willcocks)
18 Unto Us is Born a Son (arr. David Willcocks)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (arr. David Willcocks
19 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (arr. David Willcocks
Silent Night (arr. Donald Hunt)
20 Silent Night (arr. Donald Hunt)
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