Sunday, December 19, 2010

Songs for Christmas: Wexford Carol

St. Andrew's Church in Winter
photo by Parrish Nored
The Wexford Carol may be my all time favorite carol. It is an Irish carol that originated in County Wexford and dates from the 12th century. This is another one that I came late in knowing. My first encounter with the carol was in the mid 1980s when I was singing in the choir at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham. We were then under the direction of Lester Seigel, a most superb organist and choirmaster who was also choir director at Temple Emanu-El at the time (his weekends were quite busy!). These days, Dr. Seigel is an internationally known conductor and is Department Chair for the Music Department at Birmingham-Southern College. I am proud to have known him back in the day.

There is great joy in listening to music, but to sing in the choir adds another dimension. The choir works with the song over and over before it is presented to the public. As a result, the choir member has a much more intimate involvement with the music, and has had the repeated experience of finding that place of harmony, balance, timing and accord with the rest of the choir. The congregation enjoys the results of the choir's many rehearsals, but the entire process brings rich reward to the choir member.

I have two versions of the Wexford Carol here. The first is a choral presentation that is very much the way I first learned the carol. The second is of Alison Krauss recording the piece for the CD, Yo Yo Ma and Friends: Songs of Joy & Peace. Alison Krauss does a magnificent job with the song. Her background in country music (along with the addition of the drum and pipes) brings a real Celtic flavor to this Irish carol. Enjoy either one, or both!


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