The Lord At First Did Adam Make
performed by Richard Lloyd, The Hereford Cathedral Choir and Robert Green
Re-visiting various stories from the Old Testament is traditional in many Festivals of Lessons and Carols during the Christmas season. In particular, the story of Adam and Eve and their fall from the life of Paradise is a popular choice, mainly because of the long-held belief that Jesus Christ represents the birth of a "New Adam" in our religious history: He was sent to us by God in order to wash away the sins of the past, and represents a redemption and new beginning for humankind.
This lovely little carol is one that I have particularly enjoyed hearing during the King's College Chapel Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge University in England, whenever it has been performed. However, when I heard the version sung by the choristers at Hereford Cathedral, I was drawn to it for its up-beat tempo and vocal purity. And so, I cannot resist including them both here: Hereford Cathedral in the music player on the right, up there in the corner, and the King's College version (arranged most beautifully by Stephen Cleobury) in the video below. I am certain you will find pleasure in both!
The history of this carol apparently derives from the West of England. A version of it was printed in Davies Gilbert's "Ancient Christmas Carols", published in 1822. According to Mr. Gilbert, the lyrics of carols such as these were changed slightly for use on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (mainly in the chorus, I discovered during my research) up until the late eighteenth century. Mr. Gilbert wrote:
"Christmas Day, like any other great festival, has prefixed to it in the calendar a Vigil or Fast; and in Catholic countries a Mass is still celebrated at midnight after Christmas Eve, when austerities cease, and rejoicings of all kind succeed. Shadows of these customs were, till very lately, preserved in the Protestant West of England. The day of Christmas Eve passed in an ordinary manner; but at seven or eight o'clock in the evening cakes were drawn hot from the oven; cyder or beer exhilarated the spirits in every house; and the singing of carols was carried late into the night. On Christmas Day these carols took the place of psalms in all the churches, especially at afternoon service, the whole congregation joining; and at the end it was usual for the parish clerk to declare, in a loud voice, his wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all the parishioners. Rude thought it be, the earnestness and simplicity of this carol render it very characteristic and pleasing."
... to which I must add that I couldn't possibly agree more.