"THE OXFORD BOOK OF CAROLS" IS THE MOST FAMOUS AND THE MOST COMPLETE OF ALL CAROL COLLECTIONS."
It contains 197 carols, most of which are for the Christmas season, but some are for Passiontide or Easter, or for other seasons of the year. All but thirty have traditional carol tunes, mostly with traditional carol texts. The remainder have music by 19th-or 20th-century composers, including such famous carols as Holst's 'In the Bleak Midwinter' and 'Lullay my liking', Cornelius's 'Three Kings from Persian lands afar' and Tchaikovsky's 'The Crown of Roses'(one of my personal favorites).
Percy Dearmer edited the words and Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams the music. Vaughan Williams also composed four carols and collected a number of folk carols.
Carols are songs with a religious impulse that are simple, hilarious, popular and modern. But there is considerable variance among them; some are narrative, some dramatic, some personal and a few are secular. The typical carol expresses common emotions of ordinary people in language that can be understood with music that is shared by all. The tunes in this book are real carol tunes set to appropriate harmony, preserving the freshness and buoyancy of the true carol.
There are five parts in this book that I now list for your convenience: PART ONE: Traditional Carols with tunes proper to them; Nos 1-72 English, Welsh and Irish - Nos 73-113 foreign carols with word translations. PART TWO: Traditional carol tunes set to other traditional or old texts nos 114-132. PART THREE: Modern texts written for or adapted to traditional tunes nos 133-167. PART FOUR: Traditional carols set to tunes by modern composers nos 168-185. PART FIVE: Carols by modern writers and composers nos 186-197.
The carols are arranged in the index for use throughout the Church Year either by the first line of the song (Italics) or the title. There is also a separate index with just the titles alphabetically arranged. There is no doubt that many of these carols might not be as familiar to Americans as to the British from whence this book came, and possibly more familiar to Europeans. However, it is a good opportunity for all to pick up on some very attractive tunes that we might learn to enjoy. This really is an exceptional book both musically and historically for the information is extensive, well organized and most informative. The arrangements are in four-part harmony and certainly very singable and playable by the average singer or pianist.