Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 15


The Huron Carol
performed by Chanticleer

'Twas in the moon of wintertime
when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim
and wondering hunters heard the hymn:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

Within a lodge of broken bark
the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
the angel song rang loud and high:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

The earliest moon of wintertime
is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
with gifts of fox and beaver pelt:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven
is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy
who brings you beauty peace and joy:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born:
In excelsis gloria!"

Yesterday, I received a lovely email from a reader in Australia, who has been following this blog for several years. She asked if I could please play "The Canadian Carol", as she has enjoyed its inclusion in the Musical Advent Calendar in years past. Although I don't usually take requests, this one was impossible to turn down, as I have a deep love of this carol, myself, living just a short distance from the area where it was composed and first sung.

The words of this Christmas hymn were written in 1643, by Jean de Br├ębeuf, who was a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada. Br├ębeuf wanted to tell the Christmas story in a way the Hurons could understand, so he composed this Christmas carol, using the native language of the Huron/Wendat people. The song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born"). The melody is a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). The essential message - of the miracle and promise of new life and new hope in the midst of dark and bitter winter - was very "acceptable" to the Huron people, and is one we can all share today.

Even after Jean de Brebeuf's death in 1649 at the hands of the rival Iroquois, the destruction of the Sainte-Marie settlement, and the dispersal of the remaining Huron people, the survivors of the brutal attack still celebrated the nativity each winter and kept the carol alive through the oral tradition. Almost 100 years later, another Jesuit priest heard the carol and wrote it down. It was translated into French under the title "Jesus est ne." In 1926, poet J.E. Middleton wrote an English interpretation that is widely known today.

I highly recommend the spectacular book, "The Huron Carol", which is beautifully illustrated by Frances Tyrrell. It includes the music for The Huron Carol, the only surviving verse in the old Huron language, and two verses from the eighteenth century French translation.

No comments:

 
Web Analytics