Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day"

This is labeled "Lessons and Carols from St George's Cathedral, Perth Western Australia 2009."   I've really fallen in love with this song and its earthy mysticism;  it seems often to be sung at the Christmas Eve service, which emphasizes the "tomorrow" aspect.  Thought I'd post it now, before the Christmas/Epiphany season officially ends on Saturday with Candelmas.

Wikipedia provides a full set of words here; there's one rather typical-for-the-time, scolding anti-Judaic (if not anti-Semitic) verse among them.  The first four verses - below - are the ones used here, in John Gardner's arrangement of this folk tune.
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.


In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.


Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.

Here's more from the Wikipedia entry:
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day is an English carol usually attributed as 'traditional'; its first written appearance is in William B. Sandys' Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern of 1833. It is most well known in John Gardner's adaptation, but numerous other composers have made original settings of it or arranged the traditional tune, including Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky, David Willcocks, John Rutter, Ronald Corp, Philip Stopford, and Andrew Carter.

The verses of the hymn progress through the story of Jesus told in his own voice. An innovative feature of the telling is that Jesus' life is repeatedly characterized as a dance. This device was later used in the modern hymn "Lord of the Dance".


Thomas Cahill in his book Mysteries of the Middle Ages (Doubleday, 2006) presents this song as an English carol in which Christ speaks of his incarnation, his "dancing day." Cahill writes that the carol can be found on extant broadsides, which makes it certainly as old as early printing, still impossible to date. He goes on to suggest that the phrase "the legend of my play" appears to be an allusion to a mystery play, and that the song might well have been sung at the beginning of one of those dramas. That, he writes, would place it in the later Middle Ages, perhaps the fourteenth century.

The King's College Choir sings it, too.

I really do love this tune and this arrangement! 

This seems to be the original melody;  Hymns and Carols of Christmas says this is sheet music from an 1833 book.

So it seems this Willcocks arrangement of the carol - not nearly as wonderful, to me - is based on the original tune:

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