Advent - A time of mourning, of longing and of expectation concerning the coming of the Light, the Messiah, the Savior, into the world. The first section of the CD deals with this time.
1. Shepherd's Lament
When I wrote this tune several years ago, it was during a time in my life when things were glaringly not how they should be. I envisioned a shepherd sitting on a hill watching over his sheep at night, longing for things to be different. This shepherd could have been Jewish, or Scottish, or Irish. The nationality of the shepherd really doesn't matter. All shepherds have similar feelings and longings. This is the waiting for the dawning of love and the light of truth and forgiveness, the crying out for deliverance, the mourning of existence without the Light, and the longing for the days when the promised Light would come.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Guitar, Mountain Dulcimer, Bowed Psaltery
2. A Song for Jerusalem
This carol from Co. Wexford, Ireland, expresses the longing for the New Jerusalem, our promised happy home. It is the cry of mankind through the ages. This was one of ten carols published originally in 1684. It is not a popular, widely-known carol except in Co. Wexford, but is known there as one of the several Wexford Carols, and is one of two still sung there.
I have put the lyrics for this carol on this page.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimers
3. Veni, Veni Emmanuel / Annunciation
This is a medley of a familiar traditional tune in Plainsong, Mode I, from Processionale in the Mass, and new music composed to portray the Annunciation, the announcing to Mary by Gabriel, messenger of the Most High God, that Mary would become miraculously pregnant with the Light, the Son of God.
For those interested, the lyrics for Veni, Veni Emmanuel are on this page.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Mountain Dulcimer, Bowed Psaltery, Djembes
Christmas - A time of revelation, of joy and of celebration concerning the coming of the Light into the world.
4. Incarnation / New-Born Light
Incarnation and New-Born Light are both newly composed music. The incarnation is an incomprehensible event to mankind. We have nothing with which to compare it in our experience. But as with any pregnancy, there is a process of development, growth and delivery.
But then, at the end of this incarnation process, there is Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us, The Light in the flesh! New-Born Light is His anthem!
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Bowed Psaltery, Wind Chimes
5. Taladh Chriosda (Christ Child's Lullaby)
Christmas Eve - traditionally, Christ was born in the night hours before Christmas Day. The stories of the shepherds, the angels announcing His birth at night indicate this. This lullaby is from the Hebrides, windswept islands off the western coast of Scotland. It is a song I have heard many times, but have never heard it sung as well as by Cathal McConnell of The Boys of the Lough. His singing of it inspires me, and the lyrics to it are profound. This is sung from Mary's perspective on the first night of Jesus's life. I have attempted to play this tune with the lyrics in mind. The lyrics are on this page.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Guitar, Bowed Psaltery
6. Christmas Day Ina Moarnin'
This is a traditional Shetland Aire, meant not for dancing, but for listening. According to Fiddler's Companion (scroll down to the tune), it is from the Shetland island of Unst, off the northeast coast of Scotland, in probably the 1700s. Friedemann Stickle, a famous fiddler there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was paid to play this tune every year on Christmas morning in the hall of his lord, the Laird of Muness. It is possible Stickle composed the tune, but that's not known for sure. I have used it here as a celebratory tune for Christmas morning! Christ is born!
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Guitar, Bodhrán
7. What Child Is This? / Green Sleeves & Yellow Lace
These are two traditional English melodies.
What child is this? Yes, that indeed was the question many had after Christ's birth, with the signs in heaven and on earth. Who is this child? What does this mean? There were undoubtably many questions - what is it about this child? There were stories of angels appearing to shepherds telling of a Savior being born in a stable! Later there would have been more questions elicited by wise men from eastern countries traveling to Israel looking for the King of the Jews, and the subsequent slaughter of all children under 2 years of age. Something was unusual about this child! What was it?
For those interested, the lyrics to What Child Is This? are on this page.
Fewer folks are familiar with Green Sleeves & Yellow Lace, though they have heard of the song Greensleeves which comes from it. Green Sleeves & Yellow Lace is a tune from the early 1700s in England which I learned as an English Country dance musician. I transposed it from the original key of Gm to the more dulcimer-friendly key of Am for this CD. As you can hear, the melody for What Child Is This? comes from this tune. Here, once you begin to understand the answer requested and answered in What Child Is This?, it's time to dance!
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimer, Mountain Dulcimer, Bowed Psaltery, Tambourine, Ankle Bells
Epiphany - A time of the revelation of the coming of The Light to the Gentiles.
8. A Carol for the Twelfth Day
This tune is another of the Wexford carols. As with A Song for Jerusalem this is also one of ten carols published originally in 1684. Also not a popular, widely-known carol except in Co. Wexford, it is the other of the two carols of this ten which are still sung in Kilmore Parish.
The Twelfth Day is either Epiphany, or the day before, depending on the system of counting the days of Christmas you use. On this day the arrival of the wise men from the East is celebrated. Some time has passed, and another startling event occurs! Three wise men from the east of Jerusalem show up in a caravan saying they've seen a star that has led them to Jerusalem to find the new-born King of the Jews! This, of course, troubles those who think they are in control on earth, and who are not believers in any way. But find Him these kings do - in a house in Bethlehem of Judea. And they do something even more startling than journey to find this King. When they find Him, they remove their crowns, they bow down before this Child, and they worship Him! They give Him gold, incense and myrrh, all costly presents fit for the King of Kings. But these guys aren't Jews! They are Gentiles! What gives? Can even non-Jews worship this Savior, this King of the Jews?
This carol tells the whole story of Christmas in 10 verses. Don't worry. I did not play this tune 10 times through. I learned this from the book The Wexford Carols, edited and assembled by Diarmid Ó Muirithe, The Dolmen Press, and a video of the carol singers in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, singing it.
For those interested, the lyrics are on this page.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimers
9. Cradle Hymn
This tune is a traditional Appalachian carol. You may recognize the tune if your are familiar with Mountain music in the US. The tune has been used for several songs including Hush My Babe, I Will Arise, and Come, Ye Sinners. It is a simple and beautiful tune, and a perfect invitation to come closer to The Light. Lyrics can be found here.
Instrumentation: Hammered Dulcimers