Keresimesi Song Details

Carol of the Bells - Ukraine/US
Originally a folk chant (Schedryk) celebrating spring and a prosperous new year. Adapted and translated by Peter Wilhousky to sound like Christmas bells ringing out.

Bread and Cheese Wassail - England
Graham Pratt's 2004 take on the ancient tradition of going from house to house singing for money and beer, probably the origin of carol singing. From Anglo-Saxon 'Waes' (be) 'Hal' (whole).

Veni Veni Emmanuel * - Latin/France
The words of this advent hymn "O come, o come Emmanuel" date back to the 'O Antiphon' of the 8th century. The tune is from 15th century France.

Riu Riu Chiu - Spain
"Riu riu chiu" dates from the 16th century, the nonsense words 'riu riu chiu' mimicking the song of the nightingale. It tells of the Virgin birth and God protecting the lamb from the wolf. Sung live by 'The Monkees' on a 1967 show!

Bethilehemu - Nigeria/US
This rousing song in Yoruba was thought to have been brought to the US by Nigerian drummer, educator and social activist, Babatunde Olantunji written in the 1950s with Wendell Whallum, and arranged by Barrington Brooks. "Where was Jesus born? - In Bethlehem the city of wonder. We are glad we have a Father to trust"

Quittez Pasteurs - France/England
A 17th century carol from the Anjou region, arranged by John Rutter, entreats the shepherds to "Leave your sheep, go and find the new-born king."

Glory in the Firmament * - Australia
This example of a four-part counter melody was taught to the choir by Stephen Taberner of infamous Spooky Men’s Chorale.

Leganelul lui Iisus - Romania
A picturesque modern carol by Valentin Teodoria. It is a lullaby: the infant Jesus lies in a cradle of sycamore wood and we are singing like angels!

Cradle Song - England
Written by Isaac Watts, a prolific hymn writer in the early 18th century, many of whose works are still used. This hymn for children may originally have had twelve or more verses.

Keresimesi - Nigeria
Christmas ("Keresimesi" in Yoruba) has come again - people return to their villages, tell stories and celebrate with loved ones.

Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant * - France
A charming 19th century carol from the Lorraine region: "The holy child is born! Play oboes and accordions! Let's sing to celebrate his coming!"

A Szeleknek - Hungary
We love the crunchy Eastern European harmonies; each verse ends "Let's sing to you beautiful star".

Lulajze Jezuniu - Poland
"Sleep little Jesus". One of Poland's best-loved carols, usually sung during Christmas Eve midnight mass.

Mary had a Baby * - US
The 'train' which we create in this African-American call and response song refers to the 'underground railroad'- the routes slaves took to walk to freedom under cover of darkness.

Tu Scendi D'alle Stelle - Italy
"You came down from the stars". Originally written in the Neapolitan dialect, this version written in Italian by Pope Pius IX, arranged by choir member Mary Cooper-Purcell.

The Holly and the Ivy * - England
Our native winter plants have been used since ancient times for midwinter celebrations; here parts of the holly are used to illustrate the birth, life and death of Christ.

Coventry Carol - England
This haunting lullaby from Coventry's medieval Mystery Plays tells of the slaughter of the innocents by Herod.

While Shepherds Watched - England
A good example of 'West Gallery' hymns (sung in the West galleries of churches). This was the first Christmas Hymn allowed into the Church of England Hymnary in 1700

Quasisi mtoto * - East Africa
In Kiswahili: "Jesus is born, a child is given, the sound of ringing bells ('veh-geh-leh-geh-leh'), we praise Him"

Maria Durch * - Germany
A beautiful advent carol: "Mary goes through the thorny forest; under her heart she carries a little child."

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy * - Caribbean
A lively Caribbean calypso celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Gaudete - Latin
Dating from the 15th century and popularised by Steeleye Span in 1973, this rousing chorus really allows us to sing out: "Rejoice! Christ is born!"

All songs marked * arranged by Una May Olomolaiye