Twelve Drummers Drumming

I wonder if the “true love” in the song remembered to get a gift receipt.

Image from

I was feeling indecisive, so you get something of a baker’s dozen. Think of the second track as a sort of bonus track, or save it for the Epiphany tomorrow. Either way is good.

I wasn’t planning on singing this first one, but the tune for this American version of the Joys of Mary is fantastically haunting. I’d love to do it again properly when I have a bit more time. The Blessings of Mary by artsyhonker

The very first blessing that Mary had, it was the blessing of one:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could live a father’s son;
Could live a father’s son; like Emmanuel in glory
Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, through all eternity.

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of two:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could read the Scriptures through;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of three:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could set the sinner free;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of four:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could live for evermore;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of five:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could bring the dead alive;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of six:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could heal and cure the sick

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of seven:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could conquer hell and heaven

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of eight:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could make the crooked straight;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of nine:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could turn water into wine;

The very next blessing Mary had, it was the blessing of ten:
To think that her Son, Jesus, could write without a pen;

The next tune is also American, arranged by William Walker. The words to the first verse are anonymous; the rest are by Reginald Heber, and you might know a very different tune to “Brightest and best of the songs of the morning.” Hail the blest morn by artsyhonker

Hail the blest morn! See the great Mediator
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger!
Lo! for his guard the bright angels attend.
Brightest and best of the songs of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid!

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining,
Low lies his bed with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him, in slumber reclining,
Wise men and shepherds before him do fall.

Say shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gold would his favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.


Eight Maids-a-Milking

Can you milk swans? Or do the maids bring their own cows? I’m not convinced about all these presents.

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I don’t have much to say tonight. Ther is no rose of swych vertu by artsyhonker

REFRAIN: Ther is no rose of swych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jhesu.

Ther is no rose of swych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jhesu.

For in this rose conteynyd was
Heven and erthe in lyttyl space,

Be that rose we may weel see
That he is God in personys thre,

The aungelys sungyn the sheperdes to:
‘Gloria in excelsis Deo.’

Leive we al this worldly merthe,
And folwe we this joyful berthe:

Seven Swans-a-Swimming

I think it’s illegal to eat swans over here, except with special permission of the Queen or someone important. I’m told the ones on Wanstead Lake were swimming quite happily today; I didn’t get there to have a look, myself.

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Just a little something to bring in the New Year. The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols says “This may have been written for the rumbustious festival of the subdeacons/lay brothers on New Year’s Day.” Of course I would never encourage any early rumbustiousness*. Verbum Patris Umanatur by artsyhonker

Verbum Patris umanatur, O! O!
Dum puella salutatur, O! O!
Salutata fecundatur viri nescia.
He! he! hei! nova gaudia!

Novus modus geniture, O! O!
Sed excedens ius nature, O! O!
Dum unitur creature Creans omnia.
He! he! hei! nova gaudia!

Audi partum praeter morem, O! O!
Virgo parit Salvatorem, O! O!
Creatura Creatorem, Patrem filia.
He! he! hei! nova gaudia!

In parente Salvatoris, O! O!
Non est parens nostri moris, O! O!
Virgo parit, nec pudoris marcent lilia.
He! he! hei! nova gaudia!

Homo Deus nobis datur, O! O!
Datus nobis demonstratur, O! O!
Dum pax terris nuntiatur celis gloria.
He! he! hei! nova gaudia!

The translation is, roughly:

The word of the Father is made man, maiden, conception, mumble, hurrah, new joy!

This is a new manner of birth, exceeding the power of nature, mumble Creator united with everything mumble, hurrah, new joy!

Hear of a birth mumble, a Virgin has borne the Saviour, mumble creature/Creator, daughter of the Father, hurrah, new joy!

Something about the parent of the Saviour being different from what we know as parenting, Virgin, lilies, hurrah, new joy!

God made man is given to us; this is demonstrated, peace on earth mumble glory in the heavens, hurrah, new joy!

No, I have never studied Latin. And the translation in the Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols is, as far as I can tell, not in the public domain.

*Any rumbustiousness I get up to tonight will have to be comparatively early, as tomorrow is Sunday and that means I will be at church making rather a lot of noise at everyone else’s hangover.

Six Geese-a-Laying

More geese!?

This isn’t the most popular tune for this particular carol; though it is in Carols for Choirs 1, I’ve never heard it sung in a service.

Any mother will tell you that “no crying he makes” is a complete fiction; it’s bad theology to imply that the Christ child was not fully human, as well as fully divine. But I like this tune, so here you go. Away in a manger by artsyhonker

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.

Five Gold Rings

Finally off the poultry! Though if you look closely there is the Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, in this stained glass window of the Annunciation.

This is very much a mixture of old and new. The words date from the 15th Century. The music dates from 2010 and is by one Chris Upton, who has released it under my favourite license, CC BY-SA. I Syng of a Mayden by artsyhonker

I syng of a mayden
þat is makeles,
kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.

He cam also stylle
þer his moder was
as dew in aprylle,
þat fallyt on þe gras.

He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe flour.

He cam also stylle
þer his moder lay
as dew in Aprille,
þat fallyt on þe spray.;

Moder & mayden
was neuer non but che –
wel may swych a lady
Godes moder be.

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
Was never none but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

Four calling birds

As usual, no birds. I guess turtle doves just aren’t nocturnal…

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I know about this piece of music thanks to Francis Roads, Tim Henderson and the London Gallery Quire, where I play serpent and occasionally sing a bit or wave my arms about.

I’ve transposed it down a semi-tone for comfort, and am playing the instrumental bassline on the horn rather than a string instrument; a string instrument or maybe a bassoon would be more historically accurate but I don’t play them! And the serpent is a bit too honky for this piece. While the tune, Epiphany, is anonymous, it puts me very much in mind of the music of Phocion Henley.

I love Wesley’s words, which remind me of part of the Benedictus:
“Through the tender mercy of our God : whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death : and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Wesley might not have been writing about the Holy Innocents, but I think it’s an appropriate text for this day. Sons of men, behold from far by artsyhonker

Sons of men, behold from far,
Hail the long-expected star!
Jacob’s star, that gilds the night,
Guides bewildered nature right.
Fear not hence that ill should flow;
Wars and pestilence below;
Wars it bids, and tumults cease,
Ush’ring in the Prince of Peace.

Mild it shines on all beneath,
Piercing through the shades of death;
Scatt’ring error’s wide-spread night,
Kindling darkness into light.
Nations all, remote and near,
Haste to see your God appear:
Haste, for Him your hearts prepare,
Meet Him manifested there.

There behold the Day-spring rise,
Pouring light upon your eyes:
See it chase the shades away,
Shining to the perfect day.
Sing, ye morning stars again,
God descends on earth to reign,
Deigns for man His life to employ;
Shout, ye sons of God, for joy.

Three French Hens

No, I don’t have three French hens. I don’t have three English hens. I don’t even have one hen, of any description. I’m still eating leftover goose, if you must know.

I’ve been eating leftover goose, and trying to catch up with the world, and getting discouraged about politics. The Saviour of the world may have been born but looking at the state of things, “salvation” is not the word that comes to mind… and I know, I’m not suffering, I’m eating goose for crying aloud, but that doesn’t actually make it all right that other people are worrying about how they’re going to get health care, how they’re going to feed their families, how they’re going to find somewhere safe to sleep.

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I don’t have a constructive response to this. My instinct is to hold the ones I care about and tell them it will be okay…

So here, have a lullaby. Swete was the song the Virgine soong by artsyhonker

Swete was the song the Virgine soong
When she to Bethlem Juda came
And was deliver’d of hir Sonne
Who blessed Jesus hath to Name.
“Lulla, lulla, lulla, lullaby,
Lulla, lulla, lulla, lullaby,
Swete Babe!” soong shee;
“My Sonne and eke my Saviour borne,
Which hath vouchsafed from an high
To visitt us that ware forlorne.
La lulla, la lulla, la lullaby,
Swete Babe!” soong she,
And rockt him featly one hir knee.

Two Turtle Doves

Okay, there are no turtle doves in this file. Just me, and a serpent.

The version I sing isn’t exactly what’s on that ancient manuscript; but it is good fun. Resonet in Laudibus by artsyhonker

Resonet in laudibus
Cum jucundis plausibus
Sion cum fidelibus
Apparuit quem genuit Maria!

Christus natus hodie
Ex Maria Virgine
Sine virili semine:
Apparuit quem genuit Maria!

Pueri, concinite,
Nato Regi, psallite,
Voce pia dicite:
Apparuit quem genuit Maria!

Sion, lauda Dominum,
Salvatorem hominum,
Purgatorem criminum:
Apparuit quem genuit Maria!

Deo laus et gloria,
Virtus et victoria,
Perpete memoria:
Apparuit quem genuit Maria!

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Well, not quite a partridge. We had goose for dinner.

Not quite a pear tree, either, but holly:

Image from Green Grow’th the Holly by artsyhonker

Multi-tracking chant experiment

This is a brief experiment with multi-tracking chant. Creator lucis optime (English) by artsyhonker

You see, I’ve got this hare-brained idea about podcasting a sung Compline online, possibly in some kind of Whitacre-style virtual choir. That’s hard to coordinate, with chant: the pulse is directed by the words, so metronome markings are no help, for starters. But gathering together a little schola cantorum to come and sing with me in person once a week or once a month seems equally daunting. And I worry that singing Compline by myself is just going to sound a bit daft; there are too many responsorial bits, really.

So I thought I’d take something simple and see whether I can sing chant with myself, so to speak. In went the headphones and out came the hymnal to select something I’d not sung before. The results are… instructive, really. This will need a lot of work on intonation and timing before I’m happy to do an entire Compline. I did actually cheat and “mute” some sections of some voices in one or two places where the timing was just unbearably out of sync; I didn’t do any other fancy stuff, though. What you hear is what I sang.

I guess if I want an online Compline to be a recording of an actual prayer, rather than something that takes hours of editing and re-recording to get into acceptable shape for posting online, I need to find some people to sing with me, or get used to the idea of singing alone.

There are, of course, other folks who put this sort of thing online. Most seem to be regular “Compline choirs” in the US, who rehearse regularly, or monastic groups with their daily Office available as podcasts. I’m not entirely sure how what I want to offer would be significantly different, and maybe I need to figure that out, too. On a very basic level, I’d like it to be something that encourages people to join in. That means providing links to the text and preferably to notation with the text underlaid, not just an audio file as I have above.