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1. Guillô, pran ton tamborin / Pease Branle / Candlestick Branle (trad)
Guillô is a traditional carol from Provence in which Christian revellers drive Satan out with their celebrations. The Pease and Candelstick Branles come from Thoinot Arbeau's 'Orchesography', a 16th century guide to the dancing of the court and countryside. Instructions for a small repeated section in the Candlestick Branle read: 'During these four steps the dancer looks here and there to espy the partner of his choice'

2. Devil Stick the Minister (traditional)
This tune is taken from the William Vickers' collection of dance tunes published in 1772. It is fairly certain that these tunes originate in the North East of England.

3. The Devil's Dream (Playford)
Born in Norwich in 1623, John Playford is best known today for his publication of 'The English Dancing Master' in 1651, a compilation of popular dance tunes of the day. There were many subsequent editions of this work, the last being published in 1728.

4. Lullay, lullay : Als I lay on Yoolis Night (anon)

A lullaby carol dating from the 14th century, this song tells the story of a maiden who wants to put her child to sleep without singing to him. He feels wronged and tells his mother to sing. She replies 'Sweet son, of what should I sing? I never knew anything more about you than Gabriel's greeting'. She goes on to tell him of the meeting and finishes 'Certainly I saw this song sung, as I lay this Christmas Day alone in my desire'.

5. When righteous Joseph wedded was (trad) / Dove's Vagary (Playford)

This traditional English carol is one of several 'doubting' carols in which Joseph finds it 'strange his wife should be untouched and yet with child.' Gabriel comes to Joseph in a dream to reassure him. 'Fear not, just Joseph, this thy wife is still a spotless maid and no consent of sin against her can be laid'. Our instrumental version features the jangling bray harp and growling three string bass.

6. El R
ecer Del Vol Dispers (Clara Sanabras)
Clara's setting of an exquisite poem by her grandfather, the Catalan poet Joan Llongueras, in which he describes, ‘Ocells dispersos que heu volgut volar’ (You scattered birds who have flown), the birds an angelic metaphor for something lost and longed for.

El recer del vol dispers

Ocells dispersos que heu volgut volar
pel cel llunyà on es perd ma fantasia
i tot volant, un dia i altre dia,
us ha mancat el lloc on reposar
Ací el teniu. Jo us obro avui la mà.
La mà fidel que al cor fa companyia,
i dels anhels, roents d’amor, voldria
que mai ni una ala no s’obrís en và.
Torneu a mí que retrobar-vos vull;
per a cada un ma vida te el seu full,
i es cada full un sant record que plora
Aci amb vosaltres, en la llum fervent
que amb nou misteri enmig la nit s’encen,
mon esperit cercarà Déu tothora.
Shelter from the scattered flight

You scattered birds who have flown,
beyond the sky where my fantasy is lost,
and day after day, while flying, you
haven’t found a resting place….
Here it is. I open my hand to you
The faithful hand that accompanies
heart and desire, burning with love,
I wish not a single wing spreads in vain
Come back to me, I need you back;
For each of you my life has a page
And each page is a holy memory that
Weeps… Here with you, in the fervent
Light, that lights up with the new mystery
My soul will search for God at all times.

7. Follia (Arcangelo Corelli)
Corelli's 'Sonate a violin e violone o cimbalo', opera quinta, was first published in 1700 and comprises a set of virtuosic violin sonatas and Follia. This is an arrangement for nyckelharpa and harp, transposed down a 5th to accommodate the tessitura of the nyckelharpa but preserving as much of Corelli's original piece as possible.

8. A solis ortus cardine (Sarum chant) / Personent hodie (Piae Cantiones)
'A solis' presents the Christmas story and is a hymn that would have been sung as part of the Sarum rite. The Sarum rite, used for the ordering of Christian public worship, was established by the bishop of Salisbury in the 11th century and only abandoned in the 16th century. The text and melody of Personent hodie are from 'Piae Cantiones' published in 1582, a collection of Latin songs compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen, a Finnish clergyman. It tells the story of the birth of Christ. The fourth verse begins, 'Let all the clerics, and likewise the boys, sing like the angels'.

9. Joseph and the Angel (trad) / Christmas Cheer (Playford)
Taken from 'The Cherry Tree Carol', a traditional English ballad, 'Joseph and the Angel' forms the middle section of a tripartite piece. It describes Joseph on a journey in which he hears an angel sing of the baby that is about to be born. It is lovingly referred to in Laurie Lee's 'Cider with Rosie'.
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10. Belle qui tiens ma vie (Thoinot Arbeau)
Another piece taken from Arbeau's 'Orchesography' of 1589. This is the only song to appear in the book and the first page of music includes the title, 'Pavan in Four Parts with the Drum Rhythm'. We have included the drum pattern in this performance though in our version we play it at half the speed suggested by Arbeau. The protagonist of the song speaks of his ardent love for his 'Angel' in this incredibly sensuous text.
11. Rondeau (François Francoeur)
François Francœur (1698 - 1787) was a member of Les Violons du Roy and was later appointed by King Louis XV as his Music Master. This rondeau is an arrangement of a movement from his sonata no. 2 in E minor, from the Deuxieme Livre for violin and continuo, published in 1730.

12. Blessed be that Maid Marie (trad)

Another song describing the Chrismas story, set to the traditional dance tune, Stanes Morris, which appears in the Playford collection of dance tunes. 'Sweet and blissful was the song, Chanted of the angel throng.'

13. Es sungen drei Engen

This simple traditional German song, in which we are invited to join three angels in their 'endless refrain', came from a much longer 13 century hymn which had no Christmas connections. It later found its way into two Catholic chorale-books in the early 17th century.

14. Christenmiss Day in the Morning (trad)

A tune from the William Vickers' Collection of Dance Tunes which may sound familiar to many.

15. Angelus admonebit Abecue prophet am (The Play of Daniel) / Cantiga 131 : En tammanna coita non pose seer.
The Play of Daniel, a 13th century drama set to music, tells the story of Daniel and the events that lead up to him being cast into the lion's pit. This tune comes at that moment of high drama. As he finds himself in the pit he prays to God and an angel with a sword appears to protect him. Meanwhile, another angel orders Habbakuk, the prophet, to take food to Daniel. Habbakuk is reluctant so the angel seizes him by the hair and drags him there. The Cantigas de Santa Maria, composed at the court of King Alfonso X of Castile in the second half of the 13th century, are a vast repertory of poetry in medieval Galician. They include over 350 narratives of miracles of the Blessed Virgin and almost all are set to music. In Cantiga 131 we hear the story of the Emperor Alexios of Constantinople who became trapped in the collapsed tunnel of a mine. During this time the Virgin provided the emperor with food and angels came to comfort him and help him sleep. Eventually he was found alive.