Winter Carols – All Versions

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bn winter carols 2017

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Deck the Halls (Welsh)

 

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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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Oh Christmas Tree

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing / Come All Ye Faithful

Ritchie: Hark The Herald Angels Sing has been written by Felix Mendelssohn, I think. It’s one my favorite out of these tunes. Again: it’s all about the tunes. I don’t listen to the words. And the other one, Come All Ye Faithful is another one of my all-time favorite melodies. They are just my favorite songs.

Candice: I think they are just the most bombastic songs on the album. Almost partyish type of feel good songs. That’s why we began the album and its track listing with these songs. We really wanted to start with a “bang” and have a heraldic type of introduction. 

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I Saw Three Ships

Ritchie: I Saw Three Ships I think is one of the oldest carols. It’s very simple. I like it. We adapted it in a very authentic way. I played the nyckelharpa on that and Candice played the shawms. And I played the mandola as well. We tried to keep it very authentic and how it could have sounded back in those days.

Candice: I tried to keep to the organic-ness of the actual song.

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Winter Basse Dance

Ritchie: A Basse Dance was a very slow dance in the old days. I kind of based it around how I would look at the people dancing around back in the 15th and 16th centuries. I called the instrumental different before we called it Winter. It had a few other titles. When I play instrumentals they are based on a dance rhythm. I can imagine people dancing to it. It has a very simple, quite catchy melody. When you name an instrumental you have to think about how it feels. This one was very melancholic so I had to think about … winter. I think a lot of people are very melancholic during the winter. Because it’s so cold and they cannot go out. They get depressed. So it’s about depression.

Candice: The next instrumental should be called “Prozac”…  

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Ding Dong Merrily On High

Ritchie: That was the very first carol that we did as a band. Funny enough… Tell us about more about it…

Candice: On Ding Dong Merrily On High we actually are able to feature our two fabulous harmony vocalists. The twins. The Sisters of the Moon. That’s where you start hearing these big voices come in over the top. They have operetta-type trained voices so my voice hits the ceiling what it can do they take it over and bring it to a higher level. It’s an interesting combination between my voice which is much lower and the harmonies. I think in the song we start slow and then in the end it’s a wall of sound where their voices were able to help us out.

Ritchie: It’s kind of a more operatic carol really. 

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Ma-O-Tzur

Ritchie: It’s a melody that Candice used to sing around the house which I thought was a very nice melody. It’s a Jewish melody and we wanted to include all of the religions. Not just to be a Christian-Catholic thing. We wanted to keep the Jewish people involved as well. That’s why she knows how to sing it in Hebrew as well.

Candice: It’s an old Hebrew melody. So the first part of the lyrics is in Hebrew. But as with all of these songs… We didn’t want to separate them. Whether they were Jewish or Christian or Catholic lyrics. We really believe that music should be able to be listened to by everyone. And everyone should be able to enjoy it equally. When you have specific lyrics you tend to leave people out and almost create a war. The people then maybe don’t enjoy it that much because it’s something they don’t believe in. So we used a lot of lyrics on the record no matter from what religion so the people can listen to them and enjoy the music as a whole. We really didn’t want to leave anyone “out in the cold”. We still tried to keep the holiday feeling that we were already talking about. The feeling of joy, peace and of healing. Hopefully everyone can enjoy the lyrics equally.  

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Good King Wenceslas

Ritchie: There is a long story about this one in fact. It has nothing to do with King Wenceslas. Those words were added much later to that melody. I forgot who wrote it. Most of them are anonymous anyway. That was again one of my favorite tunes. I always liked that one. And then I did find out it wasn’t about Kind Wenceslas at all. It’s a rather ambiguous lyric. Whoever wrote it.

Candice: We love story-songs. Songs that have these characters involved. Songs that have a start and an ending and a plot. So when we are writing them ourselves we are drawn to songs that incorporate these ideas and character references. It’s almost like mini-theatre within songs. I think that’s the only song where we added a melody of our own. That’s probably my favorite on the album.

Ritchie: We went into some adlibbing in that one. We didn’t stick to the melody. At first we did but then we put a different arrangement in the middle-part. And then we invented a kind of a different melody to that.

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Lord Of The Dance / Simple Gifts

Ritchie: The tune has been around for a long time. It was originally called Simple Gifts back in the 1850’s. And somebody else – I forgot his name – rewrote it in 1963 I think. So we didn’t quite know how to call it. Simple Gifts was the original melody. But the words were different. So we also called it Lord Of The Dance. We have the original melody with different words. It was quite tricky and we had to call the publisher to get to know who initially wrote it. But it was originally written back in 1850 by a shaker. You know what a shaker is? A shaker is someone who believes in a very puritanical upbringing, simple way of life. Almost like the Amish type of person. And this other person came around in 1963 and wrote the same melody and put Lord Of The Dance to it. So we were confused about who wrote what. So we put both of the names down.

Candice: I think that song is probably the most representative what we are trying to stand for as a band. Because the original – I think his name is Joseph Brackett, who was the original shaker who wrote the section Simple Gifts – was talking about everything important life stands for. Not about always wanting more and more, just being happy with what you have. Not about worrying what your neighbor has. Not about having a bigger car and a bigger house. Not about the jealousy. Just really to be happy what’s around you. About your friends and your family. Things that are right there and you can touch. That for us – when he wrote Simple Gifts – we very much related to the lyrical part of the song. The second part – when Sydney Carter in 1963 made Lord Of The Dance out of it – that’s the other side of what we try to do in this band. Which is basically get everyone on their feet. Enjoying the moment, dancing and everybody clapping and singing around. That’s what we try to portrait during our concerts as well. So putting those two songs together seemed like the perfect marriage of the lyrical and musical side.     

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We Three Kings

Ritchie: We Three Kings I used to sing when I was eleven years old. It was one of my main tunes. I think I used to change the lyrics a little bit…

Candice: In a very deep way…

Ritchie: That was an old favorite of mine again from my childhood. And the melody is a wonderful melody. A very old one. From the 1500’s or even 1400’s. It goes way back! 

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Wish You Were Here

Ritchie: That was done a while back but we added a drum track to it and we changed it around a little bit. If you hear the original it’s a little bit different. That’s always been one of my favorite melodies. It’s interesting how that was a very big hit in Germany. That’s when I first heard it. So I used to pick up German stations via satellite and I thought that would be a very good tune for us to do. And we did it with the intention of releasing it in America. Cause we thought The Americans haven’t heard that song. And our friends would often ask us about the song and we said that it’s a European song. That it is very big in Europe. But American radio only plays American stuff. They don’t want to play European stuff. They only might let Elton John sing something or the Beatles. It’s usually a “closed shop” in America. That happened to Abba for example. They were the biggest band in the world except of America. So we thought we do it with the intention to release it in America. And – funny enough – when we first released it they re-released it in Germany where it has been a hit for eighteen weeks. I kinda couldn’t understand why they did that. I would have thought they will release other songs. But they have released a song that was a song already here. So it was silly I thought. 

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Emmanuel

Ritchie: Emmanuel was a very strange tune. It’s almost like a Gregorian chant. Like a monk’s chant. I took that one because I couldn’t absorb the melody when I first heard it. I couldn’t get the melody into my head. There is a line in it that keeps on going. Like a chant. I had to hear it for quite a couple of times before it went into my head. I liked the melody but I couldn’t remember it properly. And that’s one of the reasons I got involved with the tune. Because it is so unusual.

Candice: I think it resonates really deep. It has a very melancholic type of haunting melody.

Ritchie: It reminds me of World Of Stone. That’s an old kind of monk Gregorian chant. Pretty haunting! 

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Christmas Eve

Candice: Christmas Eve!

Ritchie: Christmas Eve we wrote that about an innocent Christmas Eve. Going back to the childhood. And we even have some of the neighbors singing on it. And again: I liked the melody. I kinda wrote the melody as an instrumental on the guitar in the beginning. And it was quite tricky to play it in the beginning.

Candice: And very hard to sing.

Ritchie: But we concentrated to integrate a big trumpet part and we made that fancy complicated riff very simple.

Candice: Lyrically we tried to incorporate all the questions you’ve asked me before. All the visuals like the pine trees, the snow falling and all these things. We live next to a forest so looking at the moon over the pine trees with all the crystals is one of our favorite visuals. The shining of the moon over the branches… We tried to incorporate words that would warm each other’s hearts and not to offend anyone. We went around house to house and “gathered” the little children from the neighborhood and got them to sing on it. Their parents were very pleased: “Yes! Take my child. Please! If you need them for a couple of hours just go ahead. We need some peace in our house…” I took them with me and they followed me like I was the pied piper. I brought them all to our house and they were very excited. They are all on the record and you can really hear them when the song starts to fade out. You then can hear the voices of the little children retaining the innocence. It was their very first to sing on a record and it was so honest. It was just a beautiful moment.

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We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Candice: We Wish You A Merry Christmas. We got the twins involved, too. And it’s again one of these feel good songs where everyone just sings around and enjoys himself. It is probably the easiest one for everybody to sing in the whole world in any language. You just can sing along with that one.   

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Various Promo / Collectible Versions of this album