A Mother’s Lament

This week sees Becca’s turn for a solo spot in our Folk Song A Week project, and she has chosen her favourite carol to continue our Christmas theme for December: Coventry Carol.

I find the history of this piece of music fascinating.  It is not a true “carol” in the traditional sense of the word, in that it has no true religious beginnings such as O Come O Come Emmanuel that I performed last week.  Instead this song is rooted in historic English theatre (which explains why Becca loves it so much!)

The song is a remnant of a 16th century Coventry Corpus Christi play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors”, which was one of a series of Medieval mystery plays in which local players would enact passages from the bible, and this song is the only surviving from this production.  This particular play deals with the murder of firstborn sons enacted by King Herod in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus before he could usurp him.  This song is a final lullaby sung by the mourning mothers to their dead children, and is hauntingly beautiful.

The modern lyrics are mostly attributed to a Mr Robert Croo in 1534, although the source of the modern musical arrangement is unknown.

Becca’s voice lends itself perfectly to this haunting, lyrical lullaby and we really hope you enjoy her a cappella version of this classic musical theatre number!

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