Today’s carol is one I have sung in a couple of different versions, most recently on Sunday evening. It’s another medieval carol that starts with the Garden of Eden and that whole sorry business with the apple (or quince, as some claim, though I find it hard to picture anyone eating a quince straight from the tree), and basically explains to the non-literate, or at least not-literate-in-latin audience of the time why Christ’s birth is actually important, beyond being an excuse for feasting and Twelfth Night and so forth.
Nobody ever sings all ten verses, and different arrangements choose different combinations. In fact, when I went looking for the verses I remembered that weren’t on this recording, I discovered that there were some even I have never heard of, which given my frighteningly thorough knowledge of the Christmas carol oeuvre suggests that they are really obscure. This recording skips my favourite verse*, and goes straight from “Woman was made with man to dwell”, to “Thus we were heirs to endless woes”, which strikes me as a little unfair. But even I wouldn’t sing ten verses of this, so some editing was clearly inevitable.
The carol is sung by the King’s Singers, an all-male group who I understand to be former members of the King’s College Choir. And they really do have beautiful voices, as well as having one voice per part, which is an effect I always love. And there’s a beautiful baritone solo in verse one, which to me is vital to this carol (much as I love this harmony, it *needs* that solo at the start). Don’t be put off by the falsetto solo in verse 2; I realise it’s a little alarming, but it’s worth it once you get to the glorious harmonies in verse three.
(Incidentally, you may have noticed that yesterday’s Advent Carol was an all-girl affair. This was partly because I love the Mediaeval Baebes and their arrangement of that song, partly because I think Mary’s songs should be sung by female voices where possible, and partly because I keep finding that the best arrangement of a given piece of music is by an all-male choir, with or without boy sopranos, so I couldn’t resist using an all-female group when found one.)
Bonus Easter egg (Christmas bauble?) because I love the King’s Singers, especially when they are being clever and funny:
* And they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin.
Ruined themselves, both you and me,
And all of their posterity.