Saturday, 11 December 2010

Carols and Capers

[This is my entry for this year's Blog Caroling at Footnote Maven]

What is more natural than that a love of history should be accompanied by a love of folk music? Especially when that music is played on traditional instruments.

One of my favourite groups is The Carnival Band, accompanied by the wonderful voice of Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span, the doyenne of English folk singers.


I first came across their music with their 1987 album A Tapestry of Carols, recorded at the Quaker Meeting House, Frenchay, a short distance from my home. The album is a collection of ancient carols from across Europe, played on Renaissance instruments. Reviews on Amazon describe it as "bouncy", "merry", "heartwarming" and "joyful". It is all those things. It also makes you want to dance and worship at the same time (why not?), then invite your neighbours in out of the snow to join you in a wassail in front of a roaring log fire.

The album proved so popular that Maddy and the Carnival Band now do an annual tour of Christmas concerts around the country, called Carols and Capers. I'm hoping to see this year's show for myself when they visit Bristol next Monday evening. In 2004 they recorded a DVD of their performances in Oxford and Salisbury and some of the songs are on You Tube. 

I was hard put to choose my favourite for this year's Blog Caroling but decided in the end to share their glorious rendition of God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. A traditional carol, which probably dates back to the 16th century, it is the Christmas carol mentioned by Dickens in the first chapter of A Christmas Carol. The beautiful words powerfully proclaim the "comfort and joy" of the Christmas message. Maddy's singing is a delight, the band's playing is superb and the icing on the cake is the delicious bass sound of the curtal. If this doesn't put you in the mood for Christmas, nothing will.



  1. Caroline, I love, love, love Maddy Prior's voice and this Christmas Carol. Thanks for selecting this one. I enjoyed it so much!

  2. Thank you, Judith. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sadly, I didn't get to see them live as I had hoped. Maybe next Christmas.