When I first came to Albany in the late 1970s, I saw a quartet called Nowell Sing We Clear perform two or three times. Here’s a description of the group:
“In the summer of 1975, dance musicians Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff moved to southern Vermont and teamed up with the singing duo of John Roberts and Tony Barrand. Nowell Sing We Clear was first performed in December of that same year…
“The program explores and reveals the active and still vital themes of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the return of the light at the winter solstice. The combined interests and skills of the performers in contra and morris dancing and in ballads and bawdry afforded an unusual approach to Christmas music.”
I bought a couple of their LPs, and I played them regularly until the albums went into storage. I didn’t think about Nowell we Sing Clear until this month. A local group called the Helderberg Madrigal Singers performed at my church on December 7. One of the songs in their repertoire was The Cutty Wren. I knew instantly where I knew that song from.
And I’m told they’re still performing, with Andy Davis replacing Woodruff. From a 2013 Slate article: “Nowell Sing We Clear celebrates an older, and perhaps more pagan, Christmas as it was known for centuries in Britain and North America.”
Listen to Nowell We Sing Clear
And since this the last Saturday before the big day:
Jingle Bells – The Fab Four, in the style of Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles