Christmas is coming and with it, arranging duties

During the year, I volunteered to play at a concert of international music, just a couple of pieces from my home country, and following that, I now occasionally get invited to play again at regular work concerts. I love the idea; I’m not always around but I want to do it because the first time I did it, I had a major attack of the nerves at the keyboards, and it did not go as well as it could have, compared to rehearsals.

So really, I need to do it more often, to cater for dealing with stage fright.

The run up to Christmas sees an interest in Christmas music, and so, I was looking at Christmas carols from Ireland. There are actually very, very few carols in the Irish tradition. A good chunk of the ones actually in Irish are basically translations.

The best known of the Irish carols is probably the Wexford Carol – everyone has had a go at it (there’s a particularly interesting version involving Alison Krauss, for example). It is sometimes called the Enniscorthy Carol as well, another town in the Wexford area. In the Irish language, we also have Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil. After that the options are a little limited.

The Wexford area, however, has another set of carols, which are very tightly bound up in a local tradition. They are called the Kilmore Carols and they are song in the church in Kilmore every year. They used to contain large chunks of Yola, which is a local English dialect, although that has been standardised to some extent, in the intervening years. They have been sung in that church every year since the 1700s and they are sung by a choir of six men. That choir, since the 1700s, has always included at least one member of a local family line. According to research I have done, they used to be sung in most churches in the Wexford area as an annual Christmas habit.

In terms of style, they can be described as a combination of sean-nós and plainchant. There are snippets of them online, and the sheet music has been available for years.

I am still looking at the choice, limited as though it is, and considering which I will arrange for piano. But I am looking forward to playing them.