Today marks my own contribution to our advent calendar, my festive choice being ‘The Sussex Carol’.
‘On Christmas Night all Christians sing…’
When I was small, a favourite Christmas film of mine was an animation of The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter, which I would annually watch with my grandma. The film starts with Miss Potter (portrayed by Niamh Cusack) preparing for Christmas. She lights candles with tapers by her twinkling Christmas tree, as her maid bustles about sorting the festivities. To this day, this depiction of Beatrix Potter’s front room has been my ultimate image of a Victorian Christmas. A troupe of children playing violins and singing appear at the door and are greeted with a plate of mince pies adorned with a sprig of evergreen – the carol they sing is The Sussex Carol.
The lyrics to this joyful tune first appeared in 1684 in a text named ‘Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs’. The music most commonly heard today was completed by much loved composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, who composed many of our most popular carols. The Sussex Carol is often performed at the King’s College ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ on Christmas Eve, marking the end of Advent and the start of the Christmas festivities.
On hearing this song I am transported back to being a small child, safe and content in the company of a much loved grandma and in the world of a much loved children’s author, waiting for the excitement and joy that Christmas brings. Whilst everything else around me changes, the music stays the same old beautiful tune it has always been.
Follow the link below to have a listen to this joyful and uplifting piece of music – happy carolling!