How Wexford gave the world a Christmas carol for all ages

It was on Christmas Day 2002, that I made my debut on Lyric fm — an hour-long show that was filmed in Limerick under the keen eye of producer Gail Henry, who, in its own words, drove the table while I sat in the guest chair and introduced the music.

time has changed. I’m writing this in Doha, Qatar, where I’m presenting The Hamilton Scores live from my hotel bedroom. But with no driving desk here, I’m depending on my own Midwest elves – Lily Collins and Eoin O’Dwyer – to get in on the tunes. The Christmas carols and the World Cup make for an unusual mix.

Creating a seasonal playlist is not difficult at all. Certainly in there is the name that gets its name from its association with the sunny Southeast.

William Grattan Flood, born in the late 1850s, was an organist at St Aidan’s Church in Enniscorthy. He is very interested in local music and will follow its sources as best he can. This particular song is part of a Christmas tradition in town.

Flood carefully copied it and sent it to Oxford University Press, which was planning to publish an anthology of Christmas music.

The Oxford Book of Carols, featuring Ralph Vaughan Williams as one of its editors, came out in 1928, the year of Flood’s death. The inclusion of The Wexford Carol giving it international popularity.

A modern favorite is Carol under the candlelight. A “harmonious paradise” that “shines with inner peace” in the words of Classic FM, it is the work of the great English choral composer and master choir John Rutter, who is described described as the musical equivalent of Charles Dickens, synonymous with Christmas.

Carol under the candlelight commissioned in 1984 by an American colleague of Rutter’s, John Romeri, who was then music director at the Assumption Church in Bellevue, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Rutter observes that Christmas is for many people the only time of year when they are exposed to choral music. Through the original and the arrangement, he made sure they enjoyed what they heard.

Carol under the candlelight just one example of the wonderful music created by this greatest composer to light up the sound scene of the season. Not the first time, I recommend John Rutter’s Christmas Album.

The carol that works best for me is one from the more traditional repertoire, Listen! The foretelling angels sing. The words of Charles Wesley, the leader of the Methodist movement, first appeared in 1739, but it was not until 100 years later that they acquired the tone we know today.

Felix Mendelssohn wrote a cantata to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press by Joseph Gutenberg. This vibrant piece, festival, was originally performed in the market square in Leipzig with a giant choir along with two orchestras filled with sound in the air. This is the basis for the music that accompanies our immensely popular festival choir.

George Hamilton presents ‘The Hamilton Scores’ on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am every Saturday and Sunday.

Video of the day How Wexford gave the world a Christmas carol for all ages

Fry Electronics Team

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