For last year’s Advent Calendar, I did 26 sketches of Christmas Carols for class. I’d love to make the album properly one day, but in the meantime, if you would like to use any of these for class, please be my guest. Some are a bit silly, some aren’t in straight sets of 8 bar phrases (that’s Christmas carols for you), and some are a bit rough round the edges, but you might find something in there you like.
My new pride and joy – Hymns Ancient & Modern, 2013 edition
No funny business today, just a plain rendition of the song – but here’s the thing – the song as Gruber wrote it back in 1818 (and as published in 1855), not as you probably know it. Although the lyric phrases aren’t in plain 8s, in Gruber’s version (which I’ve played twice here) it actually comes to 32 counts in all, with one extra bar of final chords at the end. That being the case, you could actually use it straight out of the box, by pretending that it’s just four 8s + an extra bar. Lyrically, it’s not quite that – it’s 8+8+4+4 | 4+4. Gruber’s version ends up more even than the one I’m used to, because he repeats the ‘sleep in heavenly peace x2’ line at the end with full choir, which is a nice touch. There are a couple of differences in the melody – particularly in the ‘sleep in heavenly peace’ line.
The picture on the left is of my latest acquisition, the 2013 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. I’ve grown rather fascinated by hymnbooks, if for no other reason than if you’ve had to deal with putting together books that have on average 50 pieces of music at a time, and deal with the copyright issues, attributions, editing etc as I have over the last few years, you get an appreciation for the work that goes into a hymnal, which in this case has 846 – yes, eight hundred and forty six tunes. I bought it because I had a £25 book token from back in May that I wanted to buy something memorable with, and this blog was the perfect reason to get interested in a nice fat reference book of hymns. I’m very grateful to the man in the Church House Bookshop where I bought it for advising me about which one to get. It was fascinating to discover that the 1950 edition (that maroon one that you might have grown up with, as I did) is still printed and sold. It’s obvious once you think about it – if you’re a parish with limited funds, you might prefer to replenish or add to your stock of the edition you already have, not have to buy the whole lot again. That’s a concept that seems to have no parallel in the software world, unfortunately.
I bet a lot of people think that hymns aren’t copyright, because how could people possibly want to make money out of something so godly and communal? Think again – it’s precisely the care in the attribution and documentation of these hymns that fascinates me. The version of Silent Night in HA&M, which is the tune that I was familiar with before I came across Gruber’s original, is by David Iliff, b. 1939, publisher information available at the bottom of the page.
For people who are interested in such things, I have been convinced all my ballet-class-playing life that this song is irregular, and I’ve had to look at it 10 times just now to convince myself that it isn’t. By ‘irregular’, I mean unable to be sectioned into 4 eights for a class exercise. This is regular, but it sounds irregular to me because the lyric phrases are irregular, even if the final number of bars isn’t. At the end, you will hear a warning that the slow stir of ronds de jambe is next.
Please forgive me for changing one of my favourite bits of this carol which is the way that the last line begins earlier than you think it’s going to. It’s 1.5 minutes to midnight, I haven’t got time to go back and change it.