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A Rose by Any Other Name

Thoughts on law, religion and shooting stars from a girl in a wide-brimmed straw hat.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And God bless you and send you a happy new year...

One of the odd but not unpleasant side effects of singing in a high school choir is the subsequent knowledge, every December, that people you haven't seen in years---some of whom you may never see again---all have the same song arrangements stuck in their head as you do.

For what was probably a mix of aesthetic and historical reasons, my high school had a marked preference for the traditional-but-not-overtly-religious variety of Christmas songs -- "Carol of the Bells", "The Twelve Days of Christmas", "The Wassail Song", the parts of Amahl and the Night Visitors that feature shepherds gossiping about sheep. The school was majority Jewish and founded that way, but in a time when no one probably thought that much about whether singing Christmas carols was a religious statement. I recall that we added in "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah" as some sort of compensation for singing "Silent Night", which was more religious than our usual content, but that this was largely a preemtive gesture -- I saw no evidence that anyone in chorus would have objected if we hadn't, or read anything into it either way. We also sang "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem, for some reason -- I think because that was what, seasonal context aside, we were working on at the time. But it does make for an odd contrast. (Fortunately, I'm irrationally fond of pretty much all the songs I've chosen to remember.)

Hark, how the bells...
...and all the little children that 'round the table go...
solvet saeclum, in favilla, teste David cum Sibylla!*
How are your children and how are your sheep?
ding dong, ding, ding dong, ding dong, ding, ding...
...love and joy come to you, and to you your Wassail too...

... cuncta stricte, stricte discussurus!
...ding dong -- ding, ding

Strange...I'm getting the oddest urge to re-read Dorothy Sayers's The Nine Tailors. Or maybe the Silmariollion...

* Ten or eleven years later, I finally went and looked up what that means. I can see why my parents didn't think it was really in the holiday spirit!
** That's not actually the end of the song, but it is the end of the alto harmony.


Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Ten or eleven years later, I finally went and looked up what that means. I can see why my parents didn't think it was really in the holiday spirit!

Your parents understood/understand linguam Latinam?

Sun Dec 03, 09:07:00 PM  
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