In Oxfordshire, as in most parts of England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, groups of singers and instrumentalists played and sang in the gallery of their village church and went round the parish at Christmas to sing carols.
This collection brings together pieces from several Oxfordshire parishes including Adderbury, Bampton, Great Milton, Hook Norton and Marsh Baldon. The carols range from brisk to stately and simple to elaborate. Texts include the familiar, with three settings of While Shepherds Watched, and two of Joy to the World and Hark the Herald Angels, and the strange and glorious. Some of these carols have been pieced together from different sources, and many appear in print here for the first time for over a hundred years.
The music in this book can be performed effectively by almost any group of singers and musicians. Early accounts indicate that they were often adapted to whatever forces were available, whether mixed or all-male groups, with the vocal parts re-assigned accordingly. The tune, whether assigned to tenor or soprano, may be sung by high or low voices, or a mixture. Instruments regularly used at the time included violin, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and serpent. Free reed instruments, such as accordions and concertinas, and brass are also mentioned.