The Holly and the Ivy

from by Philip Stephen Allen

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I have always loved this piece. It is so distinctly English in its chord structure, much like its younger cousin from Coventry.

I have always wondered what was at the root of this carol. To me, the traditional lyrics lack the depth of meaning and richness of symbolism that one usually finds in songs and carols of the same period. Considering also that to druids holly was the sacred plant of the winter solstice, and that ivy was associated with Saturn (Saturnalia being the pagan winter holiday from which many of our Christmas traditions descend), I can only imagine that this carol, in some form, is from a decidedly older tradition.

I begin and end this arrangement with a mostly traditional take on the melody. In the middle I made it into a round, with the melody playing in three different octaves at different times. I thought this brought out a different character of the melody, divorced for the most part from its customary setting.


from Finding Sanctuary : Christmas, released November 8, 2016
Traditional English Carol (15th Century or earlier)
Arranged and performed by Philip Stephen Allen


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