The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Twelve Christmas Carols

Richard Runciman Terry

London: J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd., 1912

Table Of Contents

1. Tryste Noel (The Ox He Openeth Wide The Doore), pp. 4-6.

2. Joseph And The Angel (As Joseph Was A-Walking), p. 7.

3. So blyssid be the Tyme (A New Year, A New Year), pp. 8-9.

4. The King's Birthday (Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!), p.10.

5. Christ Was Born on Christmas Day, p. 11.

6. Lullay, lullay (On Yesternight I Saw A Sight), pp. 12-13.

7. The Angel Gabriel From God, pp. 14-15.

8. Myn Lyking (I Saw A Fair Maiden), pp. 16-17.

9. I Sing Of A Maiden, p.18.

10. Regina celi letare (Holy maiden, blessed thou be), p.19.

11. When Christ Was Born of Mary Free, p. 20.

12. The New Year (The Old Year Now Away Is Fled), p. 21.


WITH the exception of Miss Gurney’s charming verses (" Tryste Noel ") the words of these carols are from old sources, chiefly the Sloane MS., A.D. 1396. The spelling has been modernised here and there.

Without discussing Carol "form", it will suffice to say that Christmas words do not make a carol out of what would otherwise be a hymn tune or part-song. In other words, a tune can only be termed a carol the nearer it approximates to the folk-song type and the further it departs from the hymn tune. It ought, moreover, to stand on its own melodic basis independent of harmony.

This collection is a humble attempt to suggest rather than reproduce the characteristics of the old traditional carols. One of the tunes opens with an actual fragment (all I can remember) of a folk-tune which in boyhood I heard a farm hand sing. I fear the tune itself is lost, as I have revisited the district to find that the singer is dead and that no one else in the "countryside" knows the song. I forbear for the present to say which Carol this is, as I shall be interested to know whether it will be readily identified by any folk-song expert, and whether — in that event — it will be too apparent where the folk-tune leaves off and my own begins. All the tunes can be sung, if required, in unison except "Tryste Noel", which, although included in the collection, is better described as a Christmas song than as a carol. I have the approval of the authoress for the sudden change from modal to modern idiom, to express the half passionate, half wistful appeal of the last two lines in each verse.


November, 1912.

Note: Rev. Terry has a page at the Choral Public Domain Library (Richard R. Terry), which contains the arrangements of two of his compositions:

A scan of the score is available at the IMSLP: Terry-Twelve Christmas Carols.

Collections from Rev. Terry:

Twelve Christmas Carols
London: J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd., 1912; With music.

Old Christmas Carols
London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., n.d., ca. 1923; With music.

Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols
London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1931; With Music

A Medieval Carol Book
London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1932; With Music

Two Hundred Folk Carols
London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933; With Music

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