History Group Talks December 2016

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Tracey Elliot-Reep

Dartmoor Christmas Trees

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                                                                   The History of Christmas Carols with Adrihenne Hesket

We finished this year’s talks with a wonderful evening with Adrienne as she took us through the history of Christmas carols.  They go back to pagan songs and the word carol is French in origin.  Christians took over the pagan songs.  Adrienne emphasised that early facts should be treated as legends.  She was so full of information and fascinating facts that it was difficult to get the dates down before being distracted by what Adrienne was saying.

St. Francis of Assisi put on the first Nativity play in 1223.  The carol First Noel was in the 1200c and of French origin.  In the 1800’s Gilbert and Sanders brought it up to that time.  (Not to be confused with Gilbert and Sullivan!).  During the middle ages and Elizabethan times minstrels used songs/carols at all times of the year.
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen is the oldest carol and Adrienne went through all the history of this carol.  Adrienne sang an older version of the carol and played another one on her recorder.  Music just oozes from Adrienne and you could tell just how passionate she is about song and dance. 
Exeter Cathedral organ was dismantled by Cromwell’s soldiers and they were seen going down the high street with it in pieces.  During 1648 and 1660 all carols were stopped during the Commonwealth period.  While Shepherds Watch Their Sheep was the only approved carol during that time.  We listened to two versions, the second one from the Hardy writings.
In late 1800’s there was a big revival in carol singing and during the Victorian period new carols were being written.  ‘We Three Kings’ is an American carol dating back to 1857.
In the 1900’s street carol singing became popular.  In 1918 Kings College first carol service as a celebration of the end of WW1.
The Pattons published a book of lost carols in 2014 and since that publication they are being sent lost manuscripts.
Adrienne finished off by playing a recording of her own composition of a dance tune and then explained that she had followed the Victorian tradition of slowing it down and turning it into a carol.  The carol version was played by a group from Bovey Tracey.

A lovely way to end our 2017 of talks, complemented by tea and mince pies.
Kirsty Peake

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