Christmas in Medieval England

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Program: #16-01   Air Date: Dec 28, 2015

The wonderful Blue Heron Ensemble shares their live performance of English music from the 13th to 15th century.

NOTE: The music on this program came from recent releases for the season.


I. Christmas in Medieval England (Blue Heron Ensemble/Scott Metcalfe). Blue Heron CD BHCD1006. For More information:

Christmas CD cover

Christmas in Medieval England allows listeners to share the beauty, excitement, intensity and variety found in a Blue Heron concert performance. It includes plainchant, carols, and other music for Advent and Christmas from 15th-century England. It is comprised entirely of tracks recorded live at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational in December 2013. The disc should appeal to fans of Blue Heron’s first disc (BHCD1001), which contained music of 15th-century France (“an extremely impressive recorded debut” ~ F. Weber, Fanfare).

1 Veni, veni Emanuel (4:41)

2 Angelus ad virginem / Gabriel from Heven-King (7:26)

3 Gaude virgo salutata / Gaude virgo singularis — John Dunstaple (4:52)

4 Hayl Mary, ful of grace (5:03)

5 Gloria (Old Hall MS, no. 21) — Leonel Power (3:38)

6 Ther is no rose of swych vertu (3:49)

7 Ibo michi ad montem mirre — Leonel Power (3:25)

Christmas Eve
8 Veni redemptor gencium — Sarum plainchant (3:14)

Christmas Day
9 Dominus dixit ad me — Sarum plainchant (2:13)

10 Nowel: Owt of your slepe aryse (3:56)

11 Gloria (Old Hall MS, no. 27) — Pycard (2:41)

12 Ecce quod natura (4:12)

13 Missa Veterem hominem: Sanctus (7:04)

14 Ave rex angelorum (2:58)

15 Missa Veterem hominem: Agnus dei (6:39)

16 Nowel syng we bothe al and som (2:51)

17 Nova, nova! Ave fit ex Eva (2:50)


II. Winter’s Delights (Quadriga Consort). Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CD 88875075722. For more information:

 Winter's Delights: Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles

Summer hath his joys, and Winter his delights” – these words, written by Thomas Campion (1567–1620) perfectly describe the attraction of the winter season. Although nature may be in a slumber, we people have found ways to amuse ourselves with long evenings of conversation, accompanied by music and wine, or snuggling up in front of the fireplace with a big mug of a nice, warm beverage, or with physical activities such as skiing or tobogganing. We’ve also invented a large number of holidays that we can look forward to and rely on to bring cheer into this dark and sun-less period. 

However, despite all attempts at merriment, it cannot be denied that winter is a cruel and inhospitable time of year and it is often used as a metaphor for a cold heart or unrequited love in ancient ballads.

It is this contrast that makes winter so intense: cold and warmth, companionship and solitude, affection and rejection, darkness and light – and, ultimately, life and death.

  1. The First Nowell 
    (trad. carol, England)
  2. Gloomy Winter 
    (trad. strathspey, Scotland)
  3. Leanabh an Aigh – The Blessed Child 
    (carol to a traditional Scottish tune by Mary M. MacDonald (1789–1872), made world-famous by Cat Stevens as 'Morning Has Broken' in 1971 with lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965))
  4. Tune No. 172
    (tune by Irish Harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670–1738))
  5. The Three Kings 
    (trad. carol, England)
  6. On This Day 
    (trad. carol, England)
  7. Noel Nouvelet – Sing We Now of Christmas 
    (trad. carol, France/England)
  8. Sweet Baby, Sleep!   
    (lyrics: George Wither (1588–1667), music: Nikolaus Newerkla)
  9. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! 
    (trad. carol, England)
  10. The Traveller Benighted in Snow 
    (trad. air, Scotland)
  11. Early in the Morning / The Ivy Leaf  / Christmas Comes But Once a Year   
    (trad. hornpipe / trad. reel / trad. jig, Ireland)
  12. Fare Thee Well, Cold Winter 
    (trad. song, England)
  13. Blessed Be That Maid Marie 
    (trad. carol, England)
  14. A Merry Christmas 
    (trad. jig, Ireland)
  15. Winter's Delights 
    (Lyrics: Thomas Campion (1567–1620), music: Nikolaus Newerkla)
  16. Gloucestershire Wassail 
    (trad. song, England)
  17. The Stormy Scenes of Winter 
    (trad. song, Nova Scotia)


Composer Info

John Dunstaple, Leonel Power, Thomas Campion (1567–1620), Mary M. MacDonald (1789–1872), Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965), Turlough O'Carolan (1670–1738), George Wither (1588–1667), Nikolaus Newerkla.

CD Info

CD BHCD1006, CD 88875075722.