Christmas Chestnuts

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For all of you holiday jammers and merry makers who get tired of the same old overplayed Christmas carols every year, here’s my list of lesser played tunes from a few years ago.  Many of these can be found on YouTube and in Craig Duncan’s A Fiddling Christmas.  Enjoy:)

1) Ding! Dong! Merrily on High

Believe it or not, I first heard this tune in an old Monty Python skit. I loved the melody and forgot all about the tune until I rediscovered it in Craig Duncan’s book.
2) The Cherry Tree Carol
I don’t remember ever hearing this traditional song until I heard Joan Baez sing it (on You Tube). Last week I was channel surfing and I came across Sting singing the tune on PBS’s Great Performances. The Cherry Tree Carol became popular despite its story being apocryphal and it is the only Christmas tune listed in the Child’s list of 305 folk ballads.
3) Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella
Over 300 years old, this melody started out in France and is still popular in England.
4) The Devonshire Carol
This one dates back to 1871 and it is sung to a couple of different lyrics versions. One of them was featured in a Steven Spielberg movie but the version I like is the one that starts with “When righteous Joseph wedded was”.
5) The Golden Carol of the Wisemen
I heard this off of a Life Magazine Christmas collection from 1963. One the same album is:
6) The Huron Indian Carol
Also called “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”, it is Canada’s oldest Christmas song. It was written in 1643 by Jean de Brebeuf, who was a missionary to the Huron tribe. He wrote the original lyrics in the Huron language. The title Jesous Ahatonhia means “Jesus, he is born”.
7) Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
Adapted from a Polish Carol.
8) Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine
This is a tune from the fifteenth century and still one of the most popular christmas tunes in Germany.
That will get you started at least. There are many old chestnuts waiting to be dusted off and I encourage you to give a few of these a listen. Maybe work up a fresh tune or two and add some spice to your holiday season this year.
Happy Holidays to all!

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