Monday, December 01, 2008

The words of well known carols

A little flurry of messages from friends distressed by being presented with rubbish words at advent carol services round the world alerts me to the fact that the creeping habit of ignorant and offensive interference has now become so prevalent that even the words of things everyone knows off by heart are being messed up. Now what is the point of that? If people really know the words by heart, then either they will blithely sing what they know and you might as well have printed that in the booklet, or they will be upset that the words don't mean what they should mean, or you will draw attention to things that are not in fact offensive and misleadingly give the people to understand that there is something wrong with them, so that they'll then be worried by them when they meet the proper words on some later occasion and will come to believe that those who sing the real words are corrupt.
Tenon-Saw reports on the carol service from Clare College, with comments on their badly adjusted version of Hark the Herald Angels, here. Annie has sent me a puzzle about "On Jordan's Bank" which I will need to investigate, but it looks like the unfamiliar version is actually the more authentic one in that case (which is actually the theme of several posts I'm about to work on, so watch this space).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

At the first Advent carol service in which I sang on Sunday, almost all the hymns came with slips of paper with the words on (tunes from NEH as they had richer harmonies, words from The Complete Anglican, or whatever it's called). At the second the organist said he hadn't had time to check the words in the booklet against those in the carol book and hymn book, and no-one else could be bothered either, but there didn't appear to be much mismatch when we sang them (either that, or the choir drowned out the congregation so much that we couldn't hear it!)

William said...

In a charity carol concert I'm doing next Tuesday we've got that old favourite, "We Three Kings". As any fule kno, it has – or rather, it should have – an elegant five-verse structure: first verse intro, one verse for each King, and one more verse to summarise. Except that we're skipping verse four.

Perhaps it's just for brevity; or maybe "Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/Sealed in the stone cold tomb" isn't deemed appropriate for a breast cancer charity fundraiser. Anyhow, it renders the line "Glorious now behold Him arise/King and God and Sacrifice" somewhat obsolete.

Oh, and just to compound the "let's cram Christmas and Epiphany into one" sentiment, we're following it up with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". Ho, hum...

Virginia said...

One seasonal piece won't be modernised in a hurry. I can't really imagine anyone singing 'O sleep, you heaven-born treasure, you!'