Saturday 24 December 2011

38: Christ Was Born In Bethlehem

This is another carol collected by Lucy Broadwood; the manuscript held in the Vaughan Williams Memorial library bears the simple note "as sung in Liverpool". Janet Blunt collected another version from a Mrs Haigh of Birkenhead with practically the same tune, though fewer words - the manuscript of this Birkenhead version is online as part of the EFDSS Take Six project.

Now, the thing is, this is quite a strange choice for Christmas, given that only 1 verse deals with the nativity, and the other 4 are about the crucifixion and resurrection - but Lucy Broadwood's version is catalogued "Christmas in Liverpool", and the version Janet Blunt collected from Mrs Haigh goes along with other carols Mrs Haigh remembered children singing in the streets around Christmastime, so this was clearly a seasonal song - reminding us that it's never too early to start looking forward to Easter!

Versions of this carol have crossed the Atlantic, with Cecil Sharp including a different variant in his English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, and it remains a popular Appalachian song. In other versions (particularly contemporary versions), the second verse does not include the direct reference to the Jews, tending towards "Judas crucified him", or "The mob they crucified him", but for the sake of archiving, I'm singing the words here according to the set given by Lucy Broadwood.

The image I've used above is a picture of a 1987 Nativity play from the Liverpool Echo.

In the Roud folksong index, this is #1122

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