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Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve, 2012 Edition

Actually Christmas Eve is still Advent so I’m kicking off with a modern arrangement of ‘Veni, veni, Emmanuel’ if you don’t know the Latin version you’ve still definitely heard it in some form or another, ‘O Come, o come, Emmanuel’ is one of those pieces of music that just about every singer has covered.

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I love the original Latin version, I sang it as a child and this year I’ve had the pleasure of hearing three of my grandsons sing it first in Latin and then in Danish. As a surprise treat for me they hid the fact that they’d learnt it in English too and regaled me with it this afternoon. It has a long and distinguished history it’s a lyrical paraphrase of the famous ‘O’antiphons that dates from the 12th-century and is based on Isaiah 7:14: “Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum : ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel”. The melody is French and is about 800 years old the hymn as it is now sung is just over 300 years old and comes from the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum published in 1710 in Cologne. (You can hear it sung by the Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge, on my site). The version below is sung by the English boys’ choir Libera singing their musical director Robert Prizeman’s setting of the hymn, it’s just the first two verses alas followed by the first verse of the English version of the hymn but it’s no less beautiful for being all too short, the soloist is Daniel Fontanaz.

The next carol “Maria durch ein dornwald ging” (“Maria walked through a forest of thorns”) is late medieval German. Like much medieval music it’s not known when exactly it was composed or by whom, but it is known to have been sung in Thuringia (Thüringen) during the fifteenth century. [cont’d.]

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