The twelve days of Christmas

Twelth Night 2015 No 5
Nativity and tree, 2014

The Christmas Season is quite short, only twelve days. Christmas, of course, already has lots of hymns and carols.

I can just remember a time when carol services were likely to be held not before Christmas, but on the evening of the Sunday after Christmas.

Extra verse for Let Wasteland Rejoice

Before I say a bit about Christmas, I thought I’d post an extra verse I’ve written for Let Wasteland Rejoice, in the previous post. The canticle in Common Worship is a selection of verses, Is 35:1, 2b-4a, 4c-6, 10. Some of the phrases left out do not add very much and who knows what plant the chavatzalet in v2a was? But I felt it was a pity not at least to provide the opportunity to sing about the Causeway and the wild beasts in vv  7-9.  So I have added an optional extra verse 4. If you choose to include it, v 4 becomes 5 and v 5 becomes 6. This is it.

A causeway shall be there called the holy way.
No unclean shall walk there, nor fools on it stray;
No lion and no savage beast shall on it roam,
For by it the faithful, God’s pilgrims, come home.

Christmas Morning Prayer

Opening –

The suggested opening canticle is Is 61: 10, 11; 62: 1-3. Common Worship calls it ‘A Song of the Bride. As yet I have not produced a version of this.  I suspect I may not. I suspect people are more likely to sing a Christmas hymn or carol in stead.

Canticle between the Readings –

This is an attractive old hymn that may well be familiar, particularly to older people as, “The people that in darkness sat, a glorious light have seen”, Isaiah 9.2,3b,4a,6,7. It is by the Rev J Morrison 1746-98 and comes originally from the Scottish paraphrases. It is CWDP No 25 where it is called ‘The Song of the Messiah’.  The normal tune is Dundee. There is a note in Book 6 on the vicissitudes of the words used in the various sources.

Evening Prayer

Opening –

What is suggested in CWDP is three verses from the very well known hymn Of the Father’s love begotten’ except that it isn’t quite. That is the first line of the version with which many people will be more familiar by J. M. Neale and H. W. Baker. The first line of the version in CWDP goes ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’. It is by R. F. Davis (1866-1937), and has been preferred by the English Hymnal. Both are translations of the same Latin hymn by Aurelius Prudentius (348-c410) and both go to the familiar tune.

CWDP also suggests a selection of verses from Psalm 18, under the curious title ‘A Song of God’s descending’.  Although long, Psalm 18 is one of the truly great psalms. This particular selection of verses is marked by asterisks where that psalm appears in Book 1.

Canticle between the Readings –

CWDP provides what it calls A song of Redemption. In Book 6, I have called it The Colossians Creed, Col 1:13-20.  I may say more about it at a future date.

I have linked it to an attractive tune, St Chrysostom, by the Rev W. H. Havergal (1793-1870).This is a tune that in my opinion greatly deserves revival.  It is not in his usual style. He wrote it as a young man, before Church of England thinking on what was an appropriate style for a hymn tune changed from the 1840s. He admitted that his more mature self was slightly embarrassed by his more exuberant youthful style, but he is clearly proud of it. I think he was entitled to be.

Both words and tune are in Book 6.

The other options are 1 Jn 4: 7-11, 12b, CWDP which is not yet set to metre and Rev 21: 1-5a, CWDP No 73, which is Isaac Watts’s delightful Lo! what a glorious sight appears. In West Gallery circles it is sung to a spectacularly florid fuguing tune sometimes called New Jerusalem. That tune would be beyond the capabilities of most church congregations. So, in  Book 6 it is set to St Saviour by F. G. Baker 1840-1908).

Night Prayer (Compline)

The psalm is Psalm 35: 1-5, optionally also with vv 9-end. In Book 1 that is linked to Tannenbaum. Outside the UK, that is a tune associated with Christmas rather than politics.


Meanwhile a short postscript on ‘While Shepherds watched’

I hope most of you who follow this blog already know that Winchester Old is not the only tune to which one can sing While Shepherds watched. It is in CM. The hymn itself is Tate and Brady’s paraphrase of Lk 2:8-14. As such, even though those verses are not a CWDP canticle, it wins its place in Book 6.

It is the classic Christmas hymn of early modern England. It is unknown to how many tunes people have sung it, but almost certainly over 80, and probably over 100.

Tunes that are in the collection which are particularly suitable are the tune that accompanies it in Book 6, Lyngham also associated with ‘O for a thousand tongues’ , Cranbrook, Ilkley Moor, (Ps 100 in CM in this collection) and Otford (Ps 8 In this collection). Those are all fuguing tunes. If your congregation wants a simple tune, try Lloyd (Ps 23 B). If you really are forced to use Winchester Old, at least sing it fast and so sing all the verses.

One of the best, though, from the Sheffield tradition is Old Fosters. Here is a youtube of Ian Russell’s Festival of Village Carols playing it at Grenoside near Sheffield complete with some musical chitchat. A warning. We never discover who Jonathan is.

Here is a more conventionally classic choral version. It will not play here, but if you click on it, it should take you to youtube and then play.

Finally, may you be blessed both at Christmas and throughout the New Year


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s