Long before King’s College’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols set the style for carol services and concerts, many communities in England had their own Christmas carols. The music – and sometimes the words – were often locally or regionally composed, with the songs being performed through the night on Christmas Eve, or in church, or even in the pub. 'While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night’ was a standard set of words that was sung to a variety of tunes. Today, this local carol tradition prospers in the Sheffield and Derbyshire Peak District areas.
In other parts of the country, similar carolling traditions are being revived – such as the carols on Exmoor. Devon-based Wren Music has helped stimulate renewed interest in these carols, and a feature about the carols is included in the latest issue of English Dance & Song (EDS) magazine. Written by Paul Wilson, the article, ‘Come Sing for the Season’, describes the carols and the recent revival.
Cecil Sharp House, home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), will host the annual A Ceremony of Customs and Carols on 16 December, Bella Hardy on 13 December and The Mellstock Band on 22 December.
Other folk-music based Christmas concerts and events
Belshazzar’s Feast ‘Stocking Fillers’ show
The Albion Christmas Band tour
John Kirkpatrick ‘Carolling and Crumpets’ tour
Bella Hardy’s ‘Bright Morning Star’ tour
‘A Tale of Two Christmases’ tour from The Mellstock Band
Details of two new publications on the Sheffield and Derbyshire carols, compiled by Ian Russell, and further information on the Sheffield and Derbyshire carols are available on www.villagecarols.org.uk and www.localcarols.org.uk.
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English Dance & Song (EDS) is the longest-established magazine devoted to folk music, dance and song in England. First published in 1936, it has appeared at least four times a year ever since. EDS exists to interest, inform and stimulate Members of EFDSS. More info
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