The English Christmas carol has a complex history. Anne Gregson, who is one of the organisers of the BoA carol sings and leads the carols band, is at the time of writing (2013) a mature student reading music at Bath Spa University. As part of her course she has written a dissertation on the history of the English Christmas carol. It is a very interesting piece in the way it uncovers the archaeological layers in the history of the carol and it comes to some perhaps surprising conclusions. We are making it available as a PDF for download. Be warned that it is long and deliberately academic in tone (it’s a 12MB download) but it is well worth reading.
Download it here: History of the English Christmas Carol
Should you wish to research some carols for yourself, here are three books that we have found invaluable:-
West Gallery Harmony – Carols and Celebrations. Edited by Gordon and Isabella Ashman and published by the West Gallery Music Association, PO Box 159, Oxford, OX2 9UA.
Carols of the West Country. By Glyn Court and published by Westcountry Books, Halsgrove House, Lower Moor Way, Tiverton, EX16 6SS
The Joy of Christmas, 2nd Edn. Compiled and presented by the Worrall Male Voice Choir and available from Mr Frank Street, 315 Haggstones Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35 0PB. This book, widely referred to as the “Blue Book”, is a comprehensive collection of carols from the Sheffield tradition.
To learn more about the Sheffield tradition, click on the photo below (of a carol sing in the Red Lion, Grenoside, near Sheffield). This will take you to a page with some interesting description (plus advice on etiquette!) and further links onward.