I have always like The Coventry Carol. I’m into dark, medieval music, particularly Christmas music, which seems like it should be bright, not dark. So I decided I wanted to record it. But I needed a little research first. I was surprised at what I found, and this led to the video (hint, read this before listening)
The carol was part of a “mystery play” that went back to the 14th century. The words were written down in the early 16th century and the music in the late 16th century, some believe in a bid to try to get it performed again (it wasn’t). This song is about the slaughter of the innocents.
Yes, The Coventry Carol is a lullaby sung by the women of Bethlehem to try to calm their frightened babies as they wait for Herod’s men to murder the babies. “Bye bye, lully lullay.” Nice, right? So “the little tiny child” in the song is not the baby Jesus, but some poor, doomed child.
The words and music survived as much by accident as anything, as such things do, and was revived again in the 20th century.During The Battle of Britain in WW2, the Germans bombed Coventry on the 14th of November, 1940. On Christmas, 1940, the BBC played The Coventry Carol live as it was being sung from the bombed out ruins of the Coventry cathedral.
So the song went from the poor woman resigned to their fate when brought up against powers beyond their understanding to the women shaking their fists at the sky when brought up against these powers. You may bomb us and kill our children, but we will rise from the ashes.
So that is were I was coming from in the recording and video.
Quick note – I picked a medieval image of the nativity from my own pictures (see image at top). It wasn’t until later that I realized that the image is from Notre Dame and the rood screen most likely was destroyed in the fire last year. So in ways, this is a memorial to that great piece of art.
Technical details, if you want them:
Most of this was recorded with my modular synthesizer. If you can understand words, I was using the VC340 vocoder (see my review).
If you remember, I recently reorganized my studio. In many ways this recording is an after effect of that reorganization.