The Huron Carol

Our winter concert is fast approaching! The evening of Friday December 4th will be a night of celebration, song, and festive stories from some of our members. Of course, no holiday concert would be complete without the inclusion of Christmas carols. We happen to have a few classics on our list that we can’t wait to share with you.

We are preparing a particularly beautiful arrangement by Robert B. Anderson of “The Huron Carol.” The a cappella harmonies, languid ‘Gloria’ opening, and pensiveness of the arrangement breathe new life into the old carol.

’Twas in the moon of wintertime
when all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead…

The carol Jesous Ahatonhia (“Jesus in Born”) was composed by St. Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit priest, in the 1640s. Brebeuf originally wrote the lyrics in the Huron (Wyandot) language, while he was stationed among the Huron people as a Christian missionary. He set the lyrics to an old French folk-tune, titled “Une Jeune Pucelle,” attempting to illustrate the message of Christmas in iconography that he thought would be familiar to the Huron people, whom he lived with for over twenty years. The English lyrics we know today were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton, and not by Brebeuf, and are not a direct translation from the original Huron-Wyandot.

The song’s minor key and lowered seventh scale degree harness an ancient sound reminiscent of old church modes, and this quintessential dark sound sets the carol apart from most other festive Christmas repertoire. The carol retains a special place in Canadian heritage, for it has been well loved by the Huron people, French Canadians, as well as English Canadians in its near 400-year existence.

-Sadie Menicanin


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