CHRISTMAS IN SUMMER PRESENTS LOTS OF CHALLENGES WHEN FOLLOWING THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE TRADITIONS. Singing about snow, sleighs, reindeer and like require a lot of imagination and ignore our actual surrounds. So we find some ephemeral attempts to locate Christmas carols and songs in Australia.
The cover design features Australian animals and plants and the Southern Cross. The red, green and white colour scheme is pretty traditional. A number of readers have asked how to get copies of this. If you would like to buy the original you would need to do this through a collector or dealer. If you just want the words and music, then here is a link to libraries that hold copies.
We quote from Wikipedia:
James wrote many pieces for voice, choir and piano, but his most enduring pieces are still his six sets of Australian Christmas Carols, in which traditional Christmas themes were given “outback” settings, such as The Three Drovers. ABC staff writer John Wheeler wrote the lyrics for these carols. The Australian Christmas Carols can still be found in music catalogues today. Outback themes were common in his secular songs as well, in compositions such as Bush Song at Dawn, familiar to many Australian children of the 1950s and 1960s through the school songbooks of the period. Other compositions by James have rustic English themes (A Warwickshire Wooing) or claim Maori inspiration (Six Maori Dances).
Read more about William G. James here.
The carols are entitled:
- The three drovers;
- The silver stars are in the sky;
- Christmas Day;
- Carol of the birds;
- Christmas Bush for His adorning.
This publication has the distinction of being the first publication of Australian carols with words and music by a single creator.
According to the National Library of Australia catalogue, W. H. Keith Young was a choirmaster and composer. The Library holds his manuscript music scores, tape recordings, notebooks and other papers that provide a complete record of Dr Young’s long career.
The Most Reverend Ronald A. Mulkearns, then Bishop of Ballarat, wrote an introduction to the book of carols:
Mr W. H. Keith Young’s prowess as a composer and conductor is well known in Ballarat and beyond. in presenting us with some ‘Glimpses of Christmas’, he invites us to reflect on our attitude to the birth of Christ. The Australian character of some of his verses may assist the devotion of those who find the “White Christmas” theme incongruous in our hemisphere…
The first line index gives a flavour of this:
- From city to the Outback (from ‘Make Room’);
- I sent a Christmas Coo-ee across the seas (from “Echo Carol of Australia”);
- Land ‘Down Under’ – ‘neath the Cross (from “The Stranger’s Carol”).
The carols are dedicated to Young’s relatives and also to choirs of Ballarat -The Choir of the Wesley Church, Ballarat; Choir and Orchestra of Loreto Abbey, Mary’s Mount, Ballarat; the Choir, Methodist Ladies College, Hawthorn; the Ballarat Civic Male Choir et cetera.
Perhaps at the other end of the spectrum, we have the more relaxed and more folksy style of Rolf Harris. Given Harris is now disgraced it is unlikely this will see any reprints.
The original we scanned is ‘filed’ somewhere we can’t locate for the minute. This cover seems to be different to the edition widely held in Australian libraries. We will update details once we locate the original. These songs apparently grew out of a children’s story Harris wrote (same title).