Yea, ere long we’ll be amid a tradition of family togetherness, a joyful Season of Song including Thanksgiving and Christmas right through New Year’s Day!
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I can recall that back in the day and half a world away with the cold settling in, we’d foregather around the piano of an evening and sing our favorite tunes from a bound copy of the “Daily Express” Community Song Book. That publication proudly proclaimed in its Foreword that it was launched on the night of November 20, 1926 when 10,000 people assembled in London’s Albert Hall for the occasion.
The opening narrative continues thus: “There were a few minutes of shyness, strangeness and timidity. Then suddenly, the spirit of song took complete command of the enormous audience. The chorus of voices swelled and volleyed round the great hall in London, and in that moment was born the astounding social movement that swept over the country like a prairie fire……Requests poured in from all corners of the land that other centers should be given the opportunity of enjoying first-hand the wonderful thing which London had so successfully inaugurated. Soon villages and hamlets began to organize their own Community Singing: Churches, clubs, institutes, workshops, schools – practically every place where men and women gather – joined in.
Just three months on (into the New Year of 1927) saw Britain turned into a land of song, and the whole country in the grip of a new force, the social consequences of which were incalculable.”
Fast forward to the 1950’s, and half a world away, to independent India: As part of the Christian minority there, we welcomed foreign visitors as well as Hindu and Muslim friends and neighbors into our home in the cold months of November or December and we expected, without reservation, that all would attend our singalongs at our jolly festive parties. Those happy events favored such staples drawn from the British Isles and beyond from the New World: Welsh: All Through the Night, The Ash Grove; American: Camptown Races, Polly-Wolly-Doodle; Scottish: Annie Laurie; Auld Lang Syne, Comin’Thro’ the Rye; English: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (sung here by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with Gerald Moore at the piano); Irish: Cockles and Mussels, The Minstrel Boy; and, of course, in December such Carols as: O Come All Ye Faithful, and Silent Night, Holy Night – in the original version composed by Franz Xavier Gruber and sung here by the Innsbrucker Capellknaben (The Boy’s Choir of Innsbruck, Austria.)
For the record
I have a special affection for Innsbruck, having spent some quality time there during my extensive musical and sketching trips in various European capitals and concert venues.
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