Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, English Village Carols: Traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Christmas carols from Sheffield.

Every country has its regional traditions and quirks, and England has more than most. The Christmas carols from the Sheffield area in the north of the country are a far cry from the Victorian wonders we sing at Yuletide. These are older seasonal songs recorded where they're usually sung — in the pubs. (You can even hear the glasses clinking.) This is quite literally folk music, the music of the people, from the communities that were once villages around the city. The singers are simply whoever's gathered that night, no professionals, just locals doing what their ancestors have done at Christmas for generations. There's the occasional cheesy organ or thumped piano (and the Village Carollers use strings), but it's about the voice, whether ragged or tuneful. It's a wonderful document of a very regional tradition, and a reminder that when we talk about a country's music, it's not homogenous, but made up of many different, glorious flavors.