Mackenzie Crook hadn’t watched Worzel Gummidge before he took on the reboot

The writer-director-star of the reboot was unaware of the passing for the animated scarecrow.


By Patrick McLennan

Mackenzie Crook says he didn’t watch Worzel Gummidge when he was young and was unaware of the passion that people of his generation had for the living scarecrow when he agreed to make last year’s two-part series.

Crook is back with another Worzel Gummidge special, Saucy Nancy, this Christmas after the success of 2019’s rebooted family drama based on the books of Barbara Euphon Todd.

He told The One Show: “There’s a whole generation of people, my age I guess, that held the ’80s version, the Jon Pertwee version so dearly to their hearts… And I didn’t actually watch that, perhaps I was unaware when I got involved and as the thing went on I realised what a thing this was on my shoulders, what a weight of responsibility.” Continue reading

Christmas Classic: “I Saw Three Ships A Sailing” The Chieftains with Marianne Faithfull

“I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)” is a traditional and popular Christmas carol and folk song from England, listed as number 700 in the Roud Folk Song Index. The earliest printed version of “I Saw Three Ships” is from the 17th century, possibly Derbyshire, and was also published by William Sandys in 1833.

The song was probably traditionally known as “As I Sat On a Sunny Bank” [per Wikipedia]

The Bells of Dublin is a 1991 album of Christmas songs and traditional carols by the Irish band The Chieftains. The album features guest performances by various artists, including Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Marianne Faithfull, Nanci Griffith, Rickie Lee Jones and the actor Burgess Meredith.[1]

Writing in the album’s liner notes, Paddy Moloney said, “These recording sessions hold special memories for The Chieftains and myself, and bring together all the colours of this festive season.”

Lyrics

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas day in the morning?

Our Saviour, Christ, and His Lady,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Our Saviour, Christ, and His Lady,
On Christmas day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the bells on earth shall ring
On Christmas day in the morning.

And all the angels in Heaven shall sing
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And all the angels in Heaven shall sing
On Christmas day in the morning.

And let us all rejoice and sing
On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And let us all rejoice and sing
On Christmas day in the morning.
On Christmas day in the morning.

Mistletoe: A Natural and Human History

mistletoeThe myths and natural history behind the holiday mistletoe tradition.

By Lisa Ballard

It’s that time of year again, when it’s difficult to avoid certain songs. Like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The tune, written by British lyricist Tommy Connor and performed by 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd, reached number one on the Billboard charts in December 1952.

Since then, dozens of artists including Andy Williams, The Four Seasons, The Jackson 5, John Mellencamp, John Prine and Twisted Sister, have recorded versions of it. Under which plant did that kiss happen? Mistletoe, of course. Most of us don’t pause to ponder the plant, but we understand the tradition. References to mistletoe continue in nearly every romantically-themed holiday song, and more than a few holiday specials.

Kissing someone under this leafy evergreen with its waxy, white berries is a cherished Christmas tradition, but that’s only a modern take on a plant laced with lore.

green plant with small leaves on black background
© Jean-Pascal Milcent / Flickr

The Plant

Perhaps kissing is strongly associated with mistletoe because the plant basically “kisses” its host. Mistletoe is a “hemi-parasite”, which attaches to a tree or shrub using a connective appendage called a “haustorium”, through which it sucks water and nutrients.

It’s hemi- or half-parasitic because many species of mistletoe also conduct photosynthesis, which, in some cases, allows the plant to live on its own, too.

There are 1,300 to 1,500 mistletoe species in the world, most living in tropical or subtropical regions. Australia, for instance, has 85 mistletoe species. By contrast, there’s only one native to the British Isles, but it is the one we see around the holidays.

Continue reading

Classic Christmas songs that are more than 100 years old

Christmas music has a long and storied history beginning centuries ago with pagan rituals. Those traditions evolved with St. Francis of Assisi’s Nativity plays in the 13th century, and survived Puritan rule when many Christmas traditions and celebrations were banned during part of the 17th century.

Traveling minstrels spread original songs before the invention of the printing press in 1440 ushered in an era of texts that served as the foundation for some of the most beloved Christmas songs. These tunes would be shared in the form of poetry and hymns printed on broadsides. Today, Christmas music runs the gamut from silly to revolutionary. Songs range from grandmothers getting trampled by reindeer to those based on the work of a Romantic-period poet. Who knew that the catchy tune of Wenceslas, the king with the funny name, is a reverent song about the patron saint of the Czech Republic? Or perhaps it would surprise readers to discover that “Silent Night” was designated as an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

These songs we know by heart and hear so often have rich histories rooted in things like war, religion, social reform, and slavery. Stacker compiled a list of Christmas songs released before 1920 and explored the origins of these pieces. This list includes Christmas carols, famous instrumentals, popular hymns, and spirituals from countries around the world. Many of these songs were created out of a chance collaboration between artists spanning time and space; a clergyman pens a hymn, and years later, a composer resurrects those words and sets them to a melody.

It may come as no surprise, then, that what people consider to be Christmas classics are among the most-covered Christmas songs of all time. “Silent Night,” for example, had 137,315 recordings according to a 2017 Billboard report.

  • ‘Jingle Bells’ (1885)

    Written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857 and originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh,” “Jingle Bells” is one of the most beloved and ubiquitous Christmas carols in existence. In 1965, astronauts Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford made “Jingle Bells,” the first song heard from space as they orbited Earth aboard the Gemini 6. It may be surprising that this Christmas classic was written as a Thanksgiving song.

  • ‘Here We Come A-wassailing’ (c. 1850)

    This traditional English Christmas carol refers to the practice of wassailing, the definition of which has evolved over the years. In the song, wassailing is the practice of traveling door-to-door, wishing good health, and asking for a bit of hospitality and Christmas tidings in return, including a drink from a communal bowl filled with mulled cider or ale called wassail. Other familiar variants of the song include “Here We Come A-Caroling,” and “Here We Come A Christmasing.”

Read on to learn about the rich histories of some of the most beloved Christmas songs that are more than a century old [ . . . ]

Continue at source: Classic Christmas songs that are more than 100 years old

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

 

By Jon Wilks

“The merry time of Christmas is drawing on a-pace…”, and so I’m delighted to share with you this Birmingham-related recording of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” [Roud 394], taken from my forthcoming album, “Up The Cut”. You can listen to (and download) the track via my Bandcamp page now, and via various streaming platforms from December 1st.

Pre-save “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on Spotify by clicking here. You will be notified via the Spotify app when it becomes available.

I found this broadside version of the well-known carol on the Broadside Ballads website. Printed by D. Wrighton at 86 Snow Hill, Birmingham, sometime between 1812-30, it contains lyrics I don’t recognise from my school days. Throwing down Satan wasn’t a major part of Yuletide festivities in 1980s Solihull, as far as I recall.

Sure, it’s a bit cheesy to do a Christmas song, but I feel it’s something of a Midlands tradition. If Slade can do it, then I’ll have a bash, too. This one’s for Noddy. Oi, oi!

Huge thanks to Andi Lee of Kosi Studios, who has helped me to mix and master this track, and the remainder of the tracks on “Up The Cut”. It’s hard to listen to your own music even once, let alone a hundred times over, so I’m very grateful to Andi for his help (and to Tom Moore for his help in demoing the track to begin with). Thanks also to Jon Nice for the lovely linocut cover.

Here’s to having as peaceful and restful a Christmas as 2020 will allow. Good tidings of the season to each and every one of you.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Lyrics

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save our souls from Satan’s thrall
Which long have gone astray
This brings tidings of comfort and joy

 

Continue reading