Saturday 21 September 2019

Global appeal of the Wexford Christmas Carol

By Maria Pepper

Christmas carols written hundreds of years ago in Enniscorthy and Kilmore are on the musical programme at concerts and recitals around the world this festive season.

The Wexford Carol, sometimes known as the Enniscorthy Carol was performed by the Chamber Singers of Algoma in the Precious Blood Cathedral in the town of Sault in Ontario, Canada last week, in a concert conducted by director Patty Gartshore which earned a review in the Sault Ste Marie Evening News.

The Wexford Carol is a religious Irish Christmas carol originating in Enniscorthy and dating to the 12th century. Sometimes known by its first verse 'Good people all this Christmas time', it was given a renewed popularity thanks to William Grattan Flood (1859-1928) who was organist and musical director at St. Aidan's Cathredal in Enniscorthy.

He transcribed the carol from a local singer and had it published in the Oxford Book of Carols, putting Enniscorthy into most carol books around the world. The words are thought to be older than the tune which may have come from a wave of Irish music during the late 18th and 19th century, American Civil War period.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star carries a review of a second annual presentation by eclectic musical quintet Ensemble Iberica of 'The Kilmore Carols' in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, under artistic director Beau Bledsoe.

The ensemble began with three selections from 'The Kilmore Carols' including 'The Darkest Midnight in December', 'Ye Sons of Men with Me Rejoice' and Christmas Day is Come', also performing 'The First Day of Christmas'.

The carols are a collection of works written by Fr. Peter Devereux, Fr. William Derereux and Bishop Luke Wadding of Ferns.

Fr. Peter Devereux who became parish priest in Kilmore around 1751, was a missionary who studied in Spain and brought Iberian melodic influences back with him. He introduced the carols to Kilmore.

Fr. William Devereux, a native of Tacumshane, was parish priest in Piercestown.

The carols have been sung in the parish church in Kilmore for over 200 years and are still performed there and elsewhere in Ireland and around the world. The Kilmore singers consist of six local men and have always included a member of the Devereux family.

There are 13 carols in all including 'The Darkest Midnight' which is for Christmas Night and one for each of the 12 days of Christmas. The songs are in an old, plaintive style, devoid of harmony but full of musical ornamentation.

Wexford People

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