Midwinter Revels

by GreenMatthews

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1.
Winter Fair 03:30
The warmth of summer is long since fled And Jack of the Green lies sleeping Beneath the earth he’s laid his head And soundly slumbers there But though the wintry fingers of His brother Jack Frost come creeping Forget your woes and cold red nose And come to the winter fair There’s roasted hogs and spicy ale And perry and cider mulling There’s songs and stories and tricks and tales To drive your cares away There’s friends of old, ones yet untold, There’s merriment, mirth and fooling So put off your care, to the winter fair Make haste upon your way Of all the twelve December is The cruellest and least embracing. Of all the seasons the winter is The loneliest of the four. Too often minds to dark incline When winter’s sadness they’re facing. The shortened days and absent rays Make spirits low and poor. So cast your frets and worries aside And haste to our merry meeting. The logs are ablaze by the fireside There’s vittles and drink prepared. We’ll feast and wassail, with cakes and ale And though it be snowing or sleeting We’ll warm with cheer and fellowship here As we dance at the winter fair We wish you good cheer and a Happy New Year As we dance at the winter fair
2.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around. Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells (x2) They lead us on our heavenward way Sweet chiming bells "Fear not," said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind; "Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind. Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells (x2) They lead us on our heavenward way Sweet chiming bells "To you, in David's town, this day is born of David's line a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; and this shall be the sign: All glory be to God on high and on earth be peace; good will henceforth from heaven to me begin and never cease. Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells (x2) They lead us on our heavenward way Sweet chiming bells
3.
Wassail, oh wassail all over the town Our cup it is white and the ale it is brown Our wassail it is made of the good old ashen tree And so is the malt of the best barley It's your wassail, it's our wassail And it's joy be to you and a jolly wassail Oh master and missus, are you all within? Pray open up the door and let us all come in O master and missus a-sitting by the fire Pray think on us poor travelers, a-travelling in the mire It's your wassail, it's our wassail And it's joy be to you and a jolly wassail Oh where is the maid with the silver-headed pin To open up the door and to let us all come in Oh master and missus, it is our great desire For a loaf and some cheese and a toast by the fire It's your wassail, it's our wassail And it's joy be to you and a jolly wassail There was an old man and he had an old brown cow And how for to keep her he did not know how He built up a barn for to keep his old cow warm And a drop or two of cider will do us no harm It's your wassail, it's our wassail And it's joy be to you and a jolly wassail
4.
The King sits in his oaken hall In his robes so rich and fine-o He’s gnawing on a roasted haunch And drinking blood-red wine-o And pine logs crackle in the hearth
 And fill the room with cheer-o Upon the board lie meat and cheeses Puddings, pies and beer-o The wind blows chill and raw without Snow covers the horizon And through the storm a figure plods Who catches the King’s eye “Come hither, page - who is that man 
Out there, pray do me tell-o
 Why does he trudge through frost and rime
 and whither does he dwell-o?” “Good sire,” the gentle page replied “I know not how he’s named-o, But sure his hovel yonder lies Beyond the holy spring “Then bundle up these rinds and skins Likewise these scraps and bones-o We’ll take them them to his home straightways Where he dwells all alone-o. He’ll never have such a feast beheld As we bring him this night-o And in his joy and nourishment I’ll take such a delight-o For is it not the season when The great give to the least-o So bundle up the remnants of The yester’s Yuletide feast-o”. They set out through the wind and snow In front the King so bold-o Behind the little page bent low The pack across his shoulder The snow fell fast, the frost crept in The wind roared ever colder Beneath the heavy pack the page Sank low and ever lower “Good sire, the burden weighs me down The chill me overcomes-o I have no shoes to warm my feet They’re lifeless and they’re numb-o” “Fear not, my page, for my fine boots Are lined with fleece and fur-o. Place your feet in the prints I leave They’ll warm you to the marrow”. Late was the hour when they arrived At the hovel of the fellow. “Why what a poor, mean place is this!” So loud the King he said-o He flung the door wide there to find The man beside the bed-o A-weeping and grieving For his wife and babe so dead-o. “A tragedy!” the King exclaimed “What cruel fate has done so To take this poor man’s wife and child Upon the feast of Stephen? How could such a cruel thing unfold Upon the Christmas season?" “Good sire,” the page replied “I will Tell you the very reason.” “In summer this man’s wife fell sick, In autumn then his babe-o But taxes still he had to find And carried on to labour-o. His taxes paid, no gold remained To pay for food and nursing And so they both grew sicker still And ever since been worsening. The taxes went unto the Crown This poor man’s overlord-o. He laboured for your comfort, sire And see now his reward-o - A bundle of cold scraps and rind As sop for Christmas given, But this poor gift can ne’er bring back His loved ones no more living.” But let it now be always told How on one feast of Stephen The good King and his page went forth On deep snow crisp and even. And let one good deed cancel out The ill deeds of the ages. For tales we tell of deeds of kings Not of peasants nor of pages.
5.
Who's that knocking at the window, Who's that standing at the door, What are all those presents Laying on the kitchen floor? Who is the smiling stranger With his hair as white as gin, What is he doing with the children Who could have let him in? Why has he rubies on his fingers, And a crown upon his head, Why, when he caws his carol, Does the salty snow turn red? Why does he ferry my fireside Like a spider on a thread, His fingers made of fuses And his tongue of gingerbread? Why does the world before him Melt in a million suns, Why do his yellow, yearning eyes Burn like saffron buns? Watch when he comes walking Out of the Christmas flame, Dancing, double-talking: Herod is his name.
6.
It was at an inn in Manchester - "The Cornstalks" was the sign A famous public where commercials used to sleep and dine One Christmas time a traveller so oft had been his use Called to spend his holidays and choose his Christmas goose He drank his pint of sherry wine, he smoked a mild cigar, He chatted with the customers and people at the bar; But not a thought of wickedness e’er entered in his head, Until the chambermaid appeared to light him up to bed. Oh! All around the greenwood so early in the morn The merry merry huntsman blows his silver bugle horn But then he grew so amorous, he squeezed her on the stairs, He kissed her at the chamber door before he said his prayers; He gave to her a guinea to prevent her being vexed, And then he blew the candle out and you can guess the rest. Next morning this lothario discharged his little bill, He tipped the Boots and tossed the landlord for a parting gill; But where he went to afterwards it’s not for me to say; Suffice he came to choose his goose that very next Christmas Day. Oh! All around the greenwood so early in the morn The merry merry huntsman blows his silver bugle horn Next Christmas Time came round again which filled his heart with glee; He’d wandered round from town to town and strange sights did he see; Till he ended up in Manchester and put up for the night At that same inn which twelve months past had filled him with delight. He went into the coffee room as jaunty as could be, Where many a rooster like himself was waiting for his tea. He ordered of the very best the landlord could produce And called the waiter back to say, ‘Now don’t forget the goose.’ Oh! All around the greenwood so early in the morn The merry merry huntsman blows his silver bugle horn Right speedily a tray was brought with eatables galore, And by that self-same chambermaid he’d kissed twelve months before; But nothing loth, he raised the cloth whereon a heap was piled; Instead of food thereon was a big fat bumping child. Enraged at seeing others laugh, ‘What is this here?’ said he. ‘Come sit you down beside me and I’ll tell you, sir,’ said she. ‘Last Christmas you so generous were, pray do not look so strange, You gave to me a guinea and I’ve brought you back your change. Oh! All around the greenwood so early in the morn The merry merry huntsman blows his silver bugle horn
7.
The villagers of Châtres and those of Montlery Upon this glorious night rejoiced and danced with glee For Jesus Christ was born as told in song and fable And in a manger then was laid Between the ox and ass where they Stood in a lowly stable The angels to the fields came in a shining throng And to the shepherds told glad tidings with their song That in a byre mean the Son of God was lying The offspring of a virgin's womb Who from above to Earth had come To save all men from dying They left their flocks and took their bagpipes and their shawms To where the angels said the Son of God was born And lustily they sang and played a merry bourrée Upon their way across the moor until at last they stood before The manger where the child lay And from the hamlet of St-Germain close nearby There came the village band across the countryside And as they came upon the stable and the manger They joined the shepherds' pipes and shawms with drums and trumpet fifes and horns To hail the holy stranger And then came Father John, the vicar of Églis Who brought a cask of wine to make us all merry and with him came his schoolboys, who in heavenly chorus Sang out a hymn of welcome to Jesus Christ the new-born King Born on this blest night for us
8.
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen Aus einer Wurzel zart Die uns die Alten sungen Von Jesse kam die Art Und hat ein Blümlein bracht Mitten im kalten Winter Wohl zu der halben Nacht Das Röslein, das ich meine Davon Jesaia sagt Maria ist die Reine Die uns das Blümlein bracht Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat Hat sie ein Kind geboren Und bleib ein Reine magt. O Jesu, bis zum Scheiden Aus diesem Jammertal Lass dein Hilf uns geleiten Hin in den Freudensaal In deines Vaters Reich Da wir dich ewig loben O Gott, uns das verleih
9.
Come one, come all, come Christmas time, Come hear the music call you on, To eat the vittles and drink the wine And dance away the whole night long. There’s Robin and Ralph and Harry too They'll come and meet upon the green With Betty andBridget, Sal and Sue The finest wenches ever seen. Hey! for Christmas once a year, When we have cakes, both ale and beer; To the Christmas feast they come, Young men and maids to shake their bums. There's a piper for to play the dance When all the lads and lasses meet, And men and maids away they dance And follow the piper down the street. Oh how they side and turn about So nimbly go around the other; And when that they have danced it out They call the piper to play another. Hey! for Christmas once a year, When we have cakes, both ale and beer; To the Christmas feast they come, Young men and maids to shake their bums. Thus they did dance from morn till night; Til they were as merry as cup and can Till they had tired the piper quite And sweat all down their buttocks ran. Then they unto Hot Cockles went, But Sal gave Betty a blow too hard, And down together smash they went And all their sporting soon was marred. Hey! for Christmas once a year, When we have cakes, both ale and beer; To the Christmas feast they come, Young men and maids to shake their bums. They took the piper, cracked his head, His pipes they threw into the fire; So drunk as they were nearly dead And slept where they fell in the mire. Hey! for Christmas once a year, When we have cakes, both ale and beer; To the Christmas feast they come, Young men and maids to shake their bums.
10.
I leaned upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-grey, And Winter's dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day. The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires. The land's sharp features seemed to be The Century's corpse outleant, His crypt the cloudy canopy, The wind his death-lament. The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I. At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead A full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited; An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom. So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.

credits

released November 30, 2020

Recorded March - October 2020 at The Garret, Coventry.
Engineered and produced by Chris Green. 


Mastered by Steve Kitch.
Album design by Frank Doran.

©Blast Records 2020.


Sophie Matthews: voice, flute, clarinet, recorders, English border bagpipes, baroque oboe, baroque musette

Chris Green: voice, guitars, mandocello, Renaissance cittern, piano, bass guitar, drums

Our profuse thanks and love to everyone who helped us to get through 2020 solvent, safe and sane.

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GreenMatthews Coventry, UK

Chris Green and Sophie Matthews play English traditional songs and tunes in a thoroughly 21st-century kick-ass style. Using a blend of ancient instruments such as cittern, English bagpipes and shawm as well as modern folk instruments such as guitar, flute and piano accordion, they breathe new life into material from hundreds of years ago, making it fresh and relevant for a modern audience. ... more

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