One of my favorite services is the Festival of Lessons and Carols. To me it doesn’t seem like Christmas until I have attended at least one service. I have an academic fascination with carols, and I love traditional settings, as well as seeing the way composers and arrangers have brought new life to these ancient texts. This weekend I was privileged to participate in two services in two different settings. This time, though there were some fascinating twists to the traditional service.
Sunday afternoon Laura and I attended the Service of Lessons and Carols at Furman. For the past 15 years, the Furman Chamber Choir has been presenting the program in Daniel Chapel. Tickets are incredibly hard to obtain, and we were lucky enough to get a couple of the 5:00 service. As a choir director I’ve … Read More “Lessons and Carols” »
I collect hymnals – the older the better. It’s fascinating to see how musical tastes have changed over the years, and see which hymns were included or excluded. Language changes and various issues (such as temperance) rise and fall from prominence.
As far as Christmas Carols go, in addition to my Oxford Book of Carols, there are three hymnals that have held my attention. I actually possess one of these, and I’ve just found copies of the other two online. I guess that will have to do, if I can’t actually own the physical copies.
The first of these is Hymns Ancient and Modern, and is a general hymnal rather than being specific to Christmas. For many years it was the primary hymnal of the Church of England, and is a standard reference for hymnology. Anne Dudley put together an excellent CD of Advent and Christmas music based on tunes from the hymnal and entitled it Ancient and Modern. I was able to acquire a copy of Ancient and Modern on eBay. I think mine is the 1916 edition, and it’s a small pocket version with only the words to the hymns – no music (pictured above.)
In the mid-to-late 20th Century there was a revived interest in ancient melodies for worship. I noticed this in our most recent Presbyterian Hymnal, which included more plainsong chants and hymns with ancient origins. These next two hymnals are even older than Hymns Ancient and Modern.