Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
A carol for the darkest day of the year
Sasha Blaze
When I was in the fifth grade or so, I became a passionate collector of Christmas songs and folk songs from every source I could get my hands on. My school allowed us to order (through Weekly Reader--remember Weekly Reader?) from dear old Scholastic Books, and in their catalog, I spotted a reprint of a collection called A Wreath of Carols. (It came with a 45 rpm record . . . oh, glory!) At the time, I didn't appreciate the fact that the arrangements in the book had been written by the jazz/Latin musician Carla Bley, but I did intuitively know that there was something special about the little book's eclectic mixture of new, old, familiar, and odd. This was the early '70s; the collection's copyright date, now that I look, is 1966, so it fits into an interesting--and eclectic--American musical context, right there.

My young imagination was instantly captured by one of the odd and new carols in the book, and that carol has been in my mind ever since. The older I get, the more I understand why its wild speculative theology and its openness to mystery appeal to me. I dug out the yellowing, brittle little paperback with the rest of the Christmas music, a few weeks ago, and I've been playing and singing this one a lot during what has turned out to be a dark and wildly mixed (hope and fear; grief and happiness; completion and postponement) December.

Both text and tune are by Sydney Carter, whom I usually only associate with "Lord of the Dance" (no, not THAT one! The Easter hymn, set to the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts," that begins "I danced in the morning . . .").

So without further ado:

Every star shall sing a carol!
Every creature, high or low,
Come and praise the King of Heaven
By whatever name you know.

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

When the King of all creation
Had a cradle on the earth,
Holy was the human body,
Holy was the human birth.

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

Who can tell what other cradle
High above the Milky Way
Still may rock the King of Heaven
On another Christmas Day?

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

Who can count how many crosses,
Still to come or long ago,
Crucify the King of Heaven?
Holy is the name I know.

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

Who can tell what other body
He will hallow for His own?
I will praise the Son of Mary,
Brother of my blood and bone.

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

Every star and every planet,
Every creature high and low,
Come and praise the King of Heaven
By whatever name you know.

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

  • 1
lovely carol!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm thinking of you... I know it's been one HELLUVA week...

TWO more days! TWO!!

It is truly a nice one. Just odd enough to remind us of the whole strange premise of Christmas, you know?

One day and two hours, to be precise. ^_^

That's very interesting indeed! I don't think I've ever heard that one. There is so many songs, Christmas music... I find it amazing everytime I find a new one.

I love period or historical carols. Esepcially Victorian and middle age ones.

I've NEVER seen or heard this carol anywhere except the funny little Scholastic Press book and record! I really need to do more looking-up on Carter . . . there's a project. And I've never met a Christmas-carol book that I didn't like, heh.

Thank you for taking the time to post that, C! It's truly an incredible bit of writing. I've copied and pasted it...and am mulling it over. I very, very much like "God above, Man Below" and can't help but think of the Way of the Alchemists - As Above So Below...ties it all together nicely for my Catholic Witch sensibilities...

I'm convinced that Carter had the alchemists in mind--and then there's that wonderful 1960s sense of expansiveness in the text, too, with space exploration still new and hopeful and exciting. I really must do more research on him. (Him? I'm thinking "him," but I might well be wrong.)

I thought you might like this one! ^_^

I would love to hear this song - the lyrics are lovely. I do love THAT one - The Lord of the Dance! Heh . . .

Thanks for sharing . . .

I wish I could figure out the voicepost thing, to let everyone hear the music, but I don't think I have the proper technology. I wouldn't actually SING or anything, but I could set my laptop next to the piano . . .

What a beautifully embracing sentiment. I should love to hear it.

The tune is really, truly lovely; I keep wondering whether it's based on a folk tune, but I've never done enough digging to find out. When I have time (i.e., after tomorrow evening!), I'll get my printer/scanner going again and see if I can upload the page from the carol book to post here. Nobody wants to suffer through my singing on a voicepost . . . trust me. ;-)

You know, you and cavalorn really need to meet . . . I think you share a very similar taste in music, amongst other things:


I'll pass this info on to him, too -- he'll love this song :D

(I think it's lovely too, btw)

-- A <3

Ahhhhh, I think he's 100% right about the "Residue" mystery!! How thoroughly cool--

^_^ ^_^ ^_^

BTW, more about Sydney Carter, which I could easily have found if I had just bothered in the first place . . . http://www.stainer.co.uk/carter.html

What is the title of this piece? Is it "God Above, Man Below"? (Sorry if I've missed it, I just want to be sure that I'm searching for the right thing) . . . I'd like to try to see if I can track down a recording or a performance at some point :)


-- A <3

I think Carter called it "Carol of the Universe"--in my little book it's "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol" (a la all the editions of Emily Dickinson's poems that just use the first line for a title . . .), so both of those might be worth trying.

While I was googling Carter, I ran across a fundamentalist discussion board that was ripping into people who sing this as a Christmas carol (or at all, if it comes to that). I think the phrase was something like "issuing an INVITATION to the Antichrist."


*eyeroll* SOME PEOPLE. Oi!!

I've also seen it listed variously under the two titles . . . it looks like it can be found collected by a group called "Reflections", and from Stainer & Bell (on a collection entitled "Nothing Fixed or Final") . . . I'll keep poking around to see if there's a performance in the public domain.

It's really lovely, and I'd love to hear it :>


-- A <3

  • 1