Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15

Snowdrifts in Dorset, England

"Remember O Thou Man"
arrangement by Bob Chilcott,
and performed by The Elora Festival Singers

As you remember from last year, I absolutely love Bob Chilcott's beautiful, "blues-y" version of this ancient carol. I'm hoping very much to hear it again, sung live by the Elora Festival singers, when I attend the "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" at St. John's Church in Elora, Ontario this weekend... barring all snow, of course.

This past autumn, I discovered a whole new reason to love the original setting of "Remember O Thou Man", which was written by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1611. While I was quilting one afternoon, I popped this DVD of Thomas Hardy's "Under The Greenwood Tree" into my player, for a little bit of "background" entertainment. Well, as you can probably imagine, I was MORE than pleasantly distracted by the story that unfolded on my tv screen... With Keeley Hawes as charming schoolmistress Fancy Day, and the spectacular James Murray as Dick Dewey, how could I possibly be expected to sew straight seams?? If you have the opportunity to see this delightful rendition of Thomas Hardy's gentlest and sweetest tale, I cannot recommend this film more highly. Within the first fifteen minutes, Dick Dewey falls head-over-heels for Fancy Day while out carolling with the church choir on Christmas Eve... while singing this carol, which I include for you here:

Thomas Hardy includes the carol in his novel, although the words are slightly different than those found in Bob Chilcott's version. As with many of these ancient, "rustic" carols, the words set to the tune can be adapted for several different religious occasions. "Remember O Thou Man" is also suggested for use in Lenten services.

Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1582 or 1592 until 1635) was an English composer, theorist and editor, notable as a composer of rounds and catches, and especially for compiling collections of British folk music. He started his career as a chorister at Chichester Cathedral and then moved to London to serve in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was an exciting time in London, as the Theatres were hugely popular, showing plays by such noted playwrights as William Shakespeare. Ravenscroft grew to know many of the actors and writers of this era, and wrote music to accompany some of the plays that were produced at the Globe Theatre. Ravenscroft was also responsible for the preservation of the largest collection of popular vocal music which were published in Pammelia(1609), Deuteromalia(1609), and Melismata(1611). These songs had massive popular appeal and, as with the plays of the era, proved profitable for the Publishers. These works became some of the longest surviving collections of traditional English popular songs.

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