Questions about Christmas carols

Yes, I know Christmas was a month ago but Mrs Claypool and I have been having a discussion about a couple of carols (well, you've got to do SOMETHING whilst you can't go out).

First of all, who else out there knows the Cowboy Carol? Does anyone admit to liking it? Is it ever sung anymore? Mrs Claypool only heard about it through me. Every year it was sung by the choir at the Anglican church I attended as a teenager (so we're talking mid to late 70s). Unfortunately, I can't get the damn thing out of my memory! ("Yoi, yippee! We're gonna ride the trail! Yoi, yippee! We're gonna ride today! When I climb up to my saddle, Gonna take him to my heart! There'll be a new world beginnin' from tonight!")

Secondly, on the first Christmas after we moved to Canada we were introduced to the Huron Carol. I know that in churches around here it is regarded as an essential item in any carol service. But I must admit to a certain degree of unease about it.

Wikipedia says that it was written by a Jesuit priest in about 1642. Given all that I know now about how First Nation people were treated by clerics (Catholic or otherwise) and having heard all the warnings about how offensive it can be for settlers to appropriate indigenous art, this carol sort of feels wrong. It isn't an indigenous carol, it is something where a settler has taken indigenous themes and images and used them for a slightly alien purpose. Am I wrong to have such doubts about this carol?

Are there other carols that cause you misgivings (or unintended hilarity)?

Comments

  • Gill HGill H Shipmate
    Both those are from my infant school days and regarded with nostalgic affection, but I haven’t heard them in years.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Interesting. The English speaking missionaries in China wrote hymns in Chinese languages, and pondered over whether to use Chinese vocabulary for God or a Sinicised version of the English rendering of the Hebrew.

    The Huron carol was originally written entirely in their own language by someone who lived among them as a missionary rather than purely as a settler.

    Also, although the translation of the original lyrics in the Wyandot language (Huron) into English in Wikipedia has not produced very clear English, it is obviously rather different from the English lyrics we are used to. The latter seem to me to owe more to a romanticising approach both to the First Nation peoples and to the Christmas story.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My favourite version of The Huron Carol is by Tom Jackson, a member of the Cree nation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_cmnxep67k

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I've not met either of those two carols but the tune to the Huron one is similar to a tune I know called la jeune pucelle. I don't know what words originally went to it, but by the title, I assume it's French.

  • Enoch wrote: »
    I've not met either of those two carols but the tune to the Huron one is similar to a tune I know called la jeune pucelle. I don't know what words originally went to it, but by the title, I assume it's French.

    The young little flea?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Yes. According to Wikipedia
    The song's melody is based on a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid").
    It is a song about the Annunciation.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Interesting. The English speaking missionaries in China wrote hymns in Chinese languages, and pondered over whether to use Chinese vocabulary for God or a Sinicised version of the English rendering of the Hebrew.

    The Huron carol was originally written entirely in their own language by someone who lived among them as a missionary rather than purely as a settler.

    Also, although the translation of the original lyrics in the Wyandot language (Huron) into English in Wikipedia has not produced very clear English, it is obviously rather different from the English lyrics we are used to. The latter seem to me to owe more to a romanticising approach both to the First Nation peoples and to the Christmas story.

    Thanks for encouraging me to look at the translation from the Wendat language. The intimations of the translation suggest a magnificent sense of wonder and salvation.

    Here is an article in the Anishinabek News about the carol.

    Here is a fascinating reflection by Bruce Cockburn on the Wendat language version. You can find another translation there.

    I suddenly feel less icky about singing it - but I think I'll have to learn Wendat!
  • This is really interesting and helps me to be clearer about why the English words have troubled me.

    I have Cockburn's version in my (extensive) collection of Christmas music.
  • Re The Cowboy Carol I have dim memories of this from my primary school (1960s): I didn't like it then and can do without it now. The Huron Carol is not something I've encountered before, and I can't see me adding it to my choir's repertoire in the future.

    Carols about which I have misgiving? Sure, starting with Good King Wenceslas; however, many of them are not only established (and much-loved) but the music is fine, the problem is with the theology or imagery.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    One little thing to be thankful for about the effect of Covid on the Christmas season has been escaping multiple repetitions of Away in a Manger this year. There are others I don't like that much but I think that's the worst. It's better when somebody chooses one of the other tunes, but even then, the words are just as mawkish and quite simply bad.

    And why, oh why, when there are something like 100 tunes recorded for it, must While Shepherds Watched, which is a good carol and a paraphrase as well, be set to Winchester Old? The editors of the First Edition of Hymns A&M bear the sole collective responsibility for that.

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    theology or imagery.

    And what pray tell has this to do with Carols? Or Christmas for that matter?

    :cry:

  • Zappa wrote: »
    theology or imagery.

    And what pray tell has this to do with Carols? Or Christmas for that matter?

    :cry:

    This is a pisstake surely.
  • Zappa wrote: »
    theology or imagery.

    And what pray tell has this to do with Carols? Or Christmas for that matter?

    :cry:

    In the context of "much loved" carols bu**er all 😈

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    :lol:
  • I have a lasting memory from "Silent Night".
    When in the little kiddie Choir I wanted to
    know who the fat (round) lady was that hung around , and what was her part in the thing happening. And what was a version? My Mom got nervous and said it was Mary's name. Three people there: Yon round
    virgin-1.....Mother-2.....and Child-3. And I decided that "Yon" was the fat lady's name.
    I have since, figured it out.
  • Ha! My sister used to think that we sang:
    We three kings,
    Ov, Orien and Tar

    And that Tar was the black one....
  • Was Ov the Russian one?
  • SpikeSpike Admin Emeritus
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Ha! My sister used to think that we sang:
    We three kings,
    Ov, Orien and Tar

    And that Tar was the black one....

    In the playground at primary school we used to sing

    We three kings of Leicester Square
    Selling ladies underwear
    They’re fantastic, no elastic
    Not very safe to wear
  • Spike wrote: »
    In the playground at primary school we used to sing

    We three kings of Leicester Square
    Selling ladies underwear
    They’re fantastic, no elastic
    Not very safe to wear

    I'm certain you didn't go to the same school as me, but even in small rural church schools we sang that verse. Also 'While shepherds washed their socks by night'.


  • Chorister wrote: »
    I'm certain you didn't go to the same school as me, but even in small rural church schools we sang that verse. Also 'While shepherds washed their socks by night'.
    Socks? Oh - the clean version.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Being an Innocent I can't think of any more risqué versions ... you will of course protect my innocence.
  • DardaDarda Shipmate
    Private Eye magazine produced a giveaway record, Abominable Radio Gnome, in December 1967. Those who remember the original UK breathalyser test will appreciate one of the songs.

    Good King Wenceslas got pissed,
    On the feast of Stephen,
    Said we thus, "two lights you've missed,
    Into this bag you'll breathe in"
    Brightly shone the crystals green,
    Due to excess wassail,
    Christmas is s groovy scene,
    God bless Barbara Castle★

    (★ Minister of Transport in the then Labour government)
  • Do "wassail" and "Castle" rhyme as badly in your dialect as they do in mine? (i.e. is this another brit-vs-yank thing, or an intentional part of the humour)
  • DardaDarda Shipmate
    Not a great rhyme. Depending on the part of the country, Castle is pronounced with "a" as in cat rather than car, which makes the rhyme slightly better. I suspect it was a contrivance to include Barbara Castle's name. The introduction of the breathalyser was seen as an outrage in some quarters, and Mrs Castle was widely heckled.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Do "wassail" and "Castle" rhyme as badly in your dialect as they do in mine? (i.e. is this another brit-vs-yank thing, or an intentional part of the humour)

    Standard Brit is WO-sail (to rhyme with a discount on Greek islands - a Kos sale), although I've heard wossle as well. As @Darda says, castle is either said with a short or long a (more or less, Birmingham, Leicester, and anywhere north of there has the short a). If you take the standard pronunciation in Blackburn, for which Barbara Castle was the long-term MP, you have a short a. If you take the "wossle" pronunciation of wassail, you get closest to a rhyme, but it's not very good at all.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    While shepherds washed their socks by night
    All seated on a bank
    An angel who was bored came down
    And taught them how to use fabric conditioner to avoid bobbling.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Shakespeare eat your heart out
Sign In or Register to comment.