Words: Traditional English
Music: John Gardner
Though thought to find its roots in the world of medieval mystery plays, this Cornish carol was first published in 1833, when it appeared in William Sandys’s volume Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. Describing the life of Christ in the form of a dance, the text has been set by composers from Gustav Holst to Igor Stravinsky; British composer John Gardner’s lively arrangement for choir, organ and optional percussion, written in the 1960s, is the version that found itself repeatedly voted for by our choral experts. ‘Gardner combines a catchy melody with simple but ingenious rhythmic patterns to produce an irresistible setting of this traditional English text,’ enthuses Stephen Darlington, choral director at Christ Church, Oxford. ‘You cannot fail to smile on hearing it.'