Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland

Earpiece #10: Wexford Carol

Mark Gresham | 31 NOV 2020

Episode #10 of Earpiece, a weekly series of audio and video presentations curated by EarRelevant’s publisher and principal writer Mark Gresham.

We are still in the season of Christmastide, so we offer a final tribute to the holiday season with two very different videos of the traditional Irish Wexford Carod. First, a hauntingly beautiful rendition by Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma, then a video direct from County Wexford, Ireland, where the carol originated, sung by company singers of the Wexford Festival Opera.

↓ scroll down to view video.

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The Wexford Carol (Irish: Carúl Loch Garman), otherwise known as the Enniscorthy Carol (Irish: Carúl Inis Córthaidh) is a traditional Irish Christmas carol originating from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, in southeastern Ireland.

The date of carol’s origins are uncertain. Some claim it to be from the early Middle Ages, but based on the style of its music and lyrics, it is more likely a product of the 15th or 16th century

William Grattan Flood (1859–1928), who was organist and musical director at St. Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy, transcribed the carol from performance by a local singer and got it published in The Oxford Book of Carols, from which it made its way into hymnals and carols collections worldwide.

We offer below two videos of different approaches to singing the carol: a more folk-like one by Alison Krauss and a more conventional unaccompanied choral version from Wexford festival Opera.

Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma perform the Wexford Carol
Alison Krauss, voice
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
et al
Traditional Itish: Wexford Carol
Playlist Duration: 4:20
Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)

Wexford Festival Opera: A Wexford Carol
Wexcford Festival Opera Company, voices
Traditional Itish: Wexford Carol
Playlist Duration: 4:20
Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)
Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)
Note: YouTube videos are embedded in accordance with the YouTube Terms of Service.

↓ scroll down to view both English and Irish lyrics. ↓

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English Lyrics

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending His beloved Son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide,
The noble virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox’s stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Prepare and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus, born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger He was laid
And by his side the virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at His feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

Irish lyrics

Ó, tagaig’ uile is adhraigí
An leanbh cneasta sa chró ‘na luí
Is cuimhnígí ar ghrá an Rí
A thug dár saoradh anocht an Naí.
‘S a Mhuire Mháthair i bParrthas Dé,
Ar chlann bhocht Éabha guigh ‘nois go caomh,
Is doras an chró ná dún go deo
Go n-adhram’ feasta Mac Mhuire Ógh.

I mBeithil thoir i lár na hoích’
Ba chlos an deascéala d’aoirí,
Go follas don saol ón spéir go binn
Bhí aingle ‘canadh ó rinn go rinn.
“Gluaisig’ go beo,” dúirt Aingeal Dé,
“Go Beithil sall is gheobhaidh sibh É
‘Na luí go séimh i mainséar féir,
Siúd É an Meisias a ghráigh an saol.”

The Irish lyrics are somewhat different from the English ones, and we thought a Googkle translation would do more disservice than enlighten, so we leave it to the reader to do that for themselves or to find someone who can read it outright, as we are in haste to post this episode of EarPiece at the literal 11th hour. So we will close here and simply wish you a Joyous Christmastide and a very Happy New year. ◼