Monday, December 28, 2009

“The Coventry Carol”

Today is the last Holiday Music post for this season, & it’s a short video—three times thru the very old British “Coventry Carol.” The instrument I chose for this is a bit unusual: a 6-string Greek bouzouki that Eberle & I were given by her parents some years back. I fingerpicked the bouzouki in a “chord melody” style.

“The Coventry Carol” is appropriate for a post after December 25th, since it refers to the Feast of the Holy Innocents (held on the 29th), which commemorates the deaths of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem in order to prevent the Messiah’s coming. The incident is related in Matthew 2:16-18, tho it isn’t mentioned in the other gospels or in any other contemporary accounts. It was a stock episode in the medieval mystery plays, with Herod being played as a larger than life villain—in fact, the character became a watchword for "chewing the scenery;" Shakespeare has Hamlet direct the players to “out-Herod Herod.”

In fact, “The Coventry Carol” was performed at the Coventry mystery play, in the Shearmen and Tailors' Pageant—this covered the entire Nativity story, from the Annunciation to the Massacre of the Innocents. The images are all from Wiki Commons, & all date to the 14th & 15th centuries.

Hope you enjoy it!

Pic at top of post:
The Flight into Egypt:
Melchior Broederlam (1398)


  1. What a unique and beautiful sound the bouzouki makes! Totally appropo for the ending piece to your Christmas postings. Seems like we're thinking along similar lines, John.

  2. Hi Karen: That's right! The bouzouki is a pretty amazing instrument--glad you liked this.

  3. Splendid! Love the extraordinary sound of the bozouki. I wouldn't have learned about this instrument and the exotic sound it makes if I haven't heard it from you.

  4. Beautiful, John. I hummed along - with my earphones on, so I'm sure my husband was amused. The bouzouki's sound is lovely, but I can't hear it without thinking about Monty Python's Cheese Shop (Shoppe?) skit.

  5. Hi Sandra: Glad you liked it. The bouzouki is an odd beast-- I don't know that particular Monty Python skit, but my imagination is going in some likely(?) directions!

  6. Beautiful, John. Well done, my friend.

  7. I really like the idea of a traditional melody of Western European Christianity interpreted through a classic instrument of Eastern Europe. Great job!

  8. Hi K: Glad you enjoyed it! Actually, the recreated medieval music I've heard sounds a bit like this.

  9. Dear John,

    You don't know The Cheese Shop? Well, that just won't do. Here you go:



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