Sussex Carol (On Christmas Night)
Written By: Luke Wadding
An extremely popular Christmas carol in Sussex and also
particularly popular in Britain, 'The Sussex Carol' is a carol
which many festive lovers within Britain remember of fondly.
'The Sussex Carol' was published by Luke Wadding.
Interestingly, Luke Wadding happens to be an Irish Bishop from the
17th century and not from Sussex as the carol would suggest.
Luke Wadding published 'The Sussex Carol' in a work which was
known as Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs, which itself was
published in 1684. Although Luke Wadding was the one who published
'The Sussex Carol', it is unknown whether Luke Wadding actually
wrote the song or whether he was actually just recording an earlier
composition. Even though the title of this carol is 'The Sussex
Carol', on occasions, this popular carol is instead known as 'On
Christmas night all Christians sing'; this alternative title
actually appears with in the carol.
The current sung versions of 'The Sussex Carol' were courtesy of
Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The pair noted down both
the down the song's lyrics and tune when they heard Harriet Verall
of Monk's Gate, near Horsham, in Sussex. As a result of this, the
carol is called 'The Sussex Carol' This particular tune which was
noted down was published in 1919. The setting by Ralph Vaughan
Williams can be found in his Eight Traditional English Carols.
Vaughan Williams also included 'The Sussex Carol' in his Fantasia
on Christmas Carols.
In comparison to the version from Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan
Williams, there was an earlier version which used a different tune
and as well as this, the other version has a variation on the first
line. This different take on 'The Sussex Carol' was published
possibly as early as 1878 by Henry Ramsden Bramley and John
Stainer's for Christmas Carols New and Old.
'The Sussex Carol' has a number of different variations within
the text which currently exist to this day. However, a continuous
feature in all of these variations of 'The Sussex Carol' is that
they all feature the repetition of the first two stanzas. For
example, the lyrics in which were collected and noted down by Cecil
Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams differ the version which was
printed by Bramley and Stainer in 1878.