MAGATAGAN, MICHAEL (1960 - )
|Publisher :||MAGATAGAN, MICHAEL|
|Copyright :||Public Domain|
|Added by magataganm, 09 Feb 2013|
Wassail is a Middle English word meaning a festive song or glee. This traditional Christmas Carol has an alternative title and is also known as the Gloucestershire Wassail. There are a large number of Wassail songs in England and many adopt the title of the region in which they were sung by carol singers, or 'Wassailers'. The author of the lyrics is unknown but is believed to date back to the Middle Ages. The carol was first published in the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.
The Old Tradition of Wassailing probably died out in the country as recently as the 1960s, and consisted of a group of people going go from house-to-house during the Christmas period, singing the Wassail Song and carrying a decorated wassail bowl.
The bowl was occasionally used to collect money or to hold drink, but usually was a token decoration. In some cases, a small Christmas tree was placed in the bowl, held upright by metal supports. Furthermore, in a few villages further south in the county, the wassailers would also carry an effigy of a cow or bull, referred to as the Broad or Bull. The Broad might be a 2-dimensional stylised face with horns and a piece of sacking hanging down or it might have been something as simple as a hollowed-out swede with a candle inside. The wassailers would arrive and sing their song, perhaps with a few other seasonal pieces, and then be given money, food or drink in return. Nearly every village in the south of Gloucestershire and even into Wiltshire had their own version of the custom and the song, many of which have been collected, but no one version can be considered as the ‘original’. The song was often called The Waysailing Bowl and the pronunciation ‘Waysail’ must have been the pronunciation that Sharp and other collectors heard but they chose to note it as ‘Wassail’. We have adopted the spelling Waysail as more reflective of the actual pronunciation.
The custom was first noted in Gloucestershire early in the 19th Century, the words being first published in the Times Telescope in 1813. In December 1912, the Cheltenham Onlooker wrote that the custom was observed in Cranham, Painswick, Stroud and elsewhere in the Cotswolds and “as recently as Boxing Day 1910, the wassail bowl, prettily decorated with coloured ribbons, fruit and evergreens, was carried round the parishes of Witcombe and Bentham. According to custom, the houses of the leading residents and farmers were visited and this ancient folksong rendered.”
Although likely originally written for voices, I created this arrangement for Woodwind Quartet (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet & Bassoon).
|Sheet central :||Gloucestershire Wassail (3 sheet music)|