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Kate Rusby on Christmas and Carols in Yorkshire

Mike Harding | 12:32 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

Kate Rusby writes:

Hello all.

Well, currently I am getting ready to start our annual Christmas tour and I can't wait!

We always have such a lovely time doing this tour as everyone is always in high spirits in the build up to Christmas. I absolutely love Christmas, I have such fond childhood memories of Christmas days past, and I never tire of it, even though I am in my 30s now I still find it as magical as ever.

I never start too early though that just makes it not as special, in fact I was in the shopping centre near here at the end of October and they had Christmas lights up! I had to shut my eyes as I walked about so I didn't absorb any of the twinkley-ness cos that's just stupidly early, I did come home with some very odd purchases due to the closed eyes, but at least I didn't let the twinkles in.

A big part of Christmas for me is the carols that are local to this area.

There is a tradition round these parts of congregating in certain pubs on Saturday and Sunday and singing these glorious carols, with a pint in hand of course, that's a must to lubricate the vocal chords of course... kinda like medicine really, you understand.

It begins every year on the first Sunday after Remembrance Day and continues until New Year's Day and is a tradition going back many, many years. The carols are passed down the generations, and as a child you kind of just soak them up as you sit with your pop and crisps, ever year knocks them a bit further into the brain and then all of a sudden you find yourself singing along to songs you weren't aware you had learnt, quite strange. Some of the carols have the same words as carols you may have learnt at school or church, but the tunes are usually different.

In some cases there are many different tunes for the same set of words, take 'While Shepherds Watched' for example, there are almost 30 different tunes for that song, I perhaps only know 5 at a push but they're all so different. There is even one that is the tune of 'On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at', apparently it was first written for the carol and later was borrowed for our great Yorkshire anthem. It is quite hard to sing that version with a straight face though, with all the added little lines that go with Ilkley Moor, 'where the ducks fly backwards' and such like, I just can't help singing them and they just don't go well with, ........and glory shone around, and glory shone around, and glory shone around........where the ducks fly backwards, he he he... it always makes me chuckle.

Anyway, these are the carols that we play on our tour and I just love singing them, we have a brass quintet with us too and they are just the cherry on the cake for me, or should I say the cream on the Christmas pud?

Some of the carols you may recognise, some you may not, but they are part of a wonderful tradition that I am truly blessed and lucky to be part of.

Indeed, if you find yourself in South Yorkshire with a spare Saturday or Sunday afternoon, seek out one of these pubs, squeeze yourself into the mob, drink your beer and sing, sing, sing!



  • Comment number 1.

    Wonderful memories of these carols from when we lived in Sheffield. They are as much a part of my Christmas listening now as is Christmas Champions the Hugh Lupton, Chris Wood & English Acoustic Collection's Play and the Lessons and Carols from Kings on Christmas Eve, which have been an inherited family ritual every year for a long as I remember.

    The recording English Village Carols: Traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines is now available to those that have access to the (free with ads) online listening service Spotify thanks to Smithsonian Folkways making what looks like their entire recorded album resource available on there.


    The English Village Carols album is also sold by the EDFSS via their online shop.

  • Comment number 2.

    While I've had brothers in S Yorks and am (I struggled and was inexperienced the few occasions I visited) aware of the brilliance of that was in Fagan's 20 years ago, it was only perhaps through Mudcat, perhaps some 10 years later - I loose track of time... that I first read of the carol bit that exists in the county and, I believe some of Derbs.

    It does sound a fantastic scene and one that I hope instead of difficult times will conspire in a way I can get there to something.

    I feel sure it's a nice one to have experienced.

    Must admit that as someone mostly into when I can just the small informal things and not always knowing much about artists, I'm delighted to read you can enjoy this type of thing.

  • Comment number 3.

    (think I need to clarify my Fagan's comment. I'd not heard carols there and I was mostly thinking of Irish instrumental stuff - just another way great [to me] things exist out there)



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