Holly and the Ivy

As I write this blog I see SNOW outside my window! Well, at least enough snow to cover my car. It’s freezing and beginning to feel like winter. While listening to this song, I’m reminiscing back to my college madrigal ensemble.

The writer/composer of this traditional British folk Christmas carol dating back to the Medieval times is unknown. It was one of the songs we performed at Madrigal Dinners. Prayer Improvisations Christmas We also performed this carol while touring England right after Christmas until the New Year. I had the joy of singing with my college madrigal ensemble all over England in two separate trips.

In the Prayerful Improvisations Christmas album, Peter Vantine creates an ambiance for the listener to sit in quiet reflection of the lyrics, with his sweet and gentle piano solo performance of this carol.  Taken from Sharp’s English Folk-Carols (1911):

Stanza 1 Stanza 2
The holly and the ivy, The holly bears a blossom,
When they are both full grown, As white as the lily flower,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
The holly bears the crown. To be our sweet Saviour.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.
Stanza 3 Stanza 4
The holly bears a berry, The holly bears a prickle,
As red as any blood, As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to do us sinners good. On Christmas Day in the morn.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.
Stanza 5 Stanza 6
The holly bears a bark, The holly and the ivy,
As bitter as any gall, When they are both full grown,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ Of all the trees that are in the wood,
For to redeem us all. The holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.

Peter’s arrangement starts in a low key and then he almost inconspicuously modulates to the original key by the end of the song. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.

This is the Dec. 16 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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