An English Country Christmas (CD)

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Various Artists

Joyful wassailing songs and Christmas songs with a country flavour create the atmosphere of a country feast and Christmas celebration. Dancing too, can be heard - and the music of the angels to remind us about the magic and mystery of Christmas.

A gentle snowfall…. a warm, comfortable spot near the fireplace…windowpanes covered with frost…the sparkle and glow of hundreds of beautiful lights and ornaments on a cheery, pine-scented tree…biscuits, nuts and boxes of sweets, steaming mugs of hot chocolate… And you and your loved ones, gathered together, sharing and making memories.

But there's one vital ingredient missing. Yes, you're right. It's the music. The carols and the seasonal songs, the perfect backdrop for the fun and festivities of this (and every) Christmas season. We have chosen more than hour's worth of Christmas music, magic and memories to evoke 'An English Country Christmas'. Here's mood-setting music ready to enhance your holiday experience, from setting up the tree and wrapping up the gifts to welcoming friends and family to your home and hearth. Here's music to play as the presents are unwrapped… your decorations are admired…and your party rolls on.

You'll find comfort in the traditional carols that remind us of the deeper meanings the Christmas season holds for all humanity; the gentle, emotional and personal kind such as 'Away in a manger' and 'The holly and the ivy'. The former carol has been wrongly attributed to the sixteenth century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, perhaps because it is sometimes called 'Luther's cradle hymn', and the actual writer of the words is unknown. However, words with a marked resemblance to those used here were published in America in 1885. The verses have been set to dozens of different melodies, but the most familiar one is featured here as Sara Stowe gives the carol a truly heartfelt rendering.

As with so many carols, the music associated with 'The Holly and the Ivy' is so old that we have lost track of its exact origins, although we do know that is from France. The text was first officially published in England in 1861 by Joshua Sylvester, who claimed that he obtained it from an old broadsheet printed a century and a half earlier. The phrase from the song, 'The holly bears the crown', refers, of course, to the prickly thorns which can remind us of the savage 'crown' Jesus was forced to wear at his Crucifixion.

Then you'll find pleasure in the good cheer of carols that herald the birth of the King such as 'O come, all ye faithful'. In 1751, John Francis Wade, an Englishman living in France, published music (probably by another Englishmen, John Reading) and a Latin text beginning 'Adeste Fidelis'. It is not known whether Wade wrote the Latin verses or had simply come across them while copying old music manuscripts. 'Adeste Fidelis' eventually made its way to England where, more than a century after it was published, Frederick Oakley supplied it with the tasteful, dignified English text, 'O Come, all ye faithful'.

Here then, are all the necessary ingredients for sharing the joyful, festive and heart-warming traditions of 'An English Country Christmas'.

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1. Here we come a wassailing - The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford
2. Away in a manger - Sara Stowe, Martin Souter
3. Gloucestershire wassail - Sara Stowe, Matthew Spring
4. In dulci jubilo
5. Hallelujah Chorus - The Harlow Chorus
6. O Come, all ye faithful - Choir of Worcester College, Oxford
7. The Coventry carol - The Cherwell Singers
8. The holly and the ivy - Choir of Queens College, Cambridge
9. Jesu, joy of man's desiring - Martin Souter
10. Once in royal David's city - Ian Giles
11. Angels from the realms of glory - Singscape
12. Gloria in excelsis - English Renaissance
13. Agincourt carol - Ian Giles
14. Dame get up and bake your pies - Sara Stowe, Matthew Spring
15. A child this day is born - The Cherwell Singers
16. O nobilissima - The Oxford Girls' Choir
17. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day - Ian Giles
18. The angel Gabriel - Singscape
19. Alleluia - English Renaissance
20. The Twelve days of Christmas
21. We wish you a merry Christmas - Ian Giles

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