"...each village had its own store of Carols, and nothing would induce one village to appropriate the Carols
of another; thus it will be seen how great the number of these compositions must have been, and still may be....
In those of the Carols which I examined after writing them down, I found the harmonization to be wonderfully
correct from the present standpoint.
Unless modern civilization has spoiled these happy hunting grounds for the musical antiquary, there should still
remain a vast amount of unexplored territory which it would even now repay him well to visit."
English County Songs, 1892.
Carols have a dramatic history - alternately promoted and banned by authorities of all kinds, their texts and
music were often a target for high minded reformers. But despite every effort to discourage their performance, carols have
also been consistently popular - loved for their humanity, resonance and the sheer enjoyment of singing them.
From their medieval beginnings until recently, carols existed simply as texts and were sung to any tune that
fitted their words. Even today, in many parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, While Shepherds Watched is rarely heard to the
nationally known tune Winchester Old, instead it occurs in dozens of different versions - including highly ornate settings
like Pentonville and Lyngham.
This Garland of Carols takes its name from the sheets of words that local printers produced for Christmas in
the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It reflects the glorious profusion of words and tunes associated with carols
from across England and the tradition of singing them in back kitchens, streets and pubs with enthusiasm and affection.
The music included in A Garland of Carols draws directly on Coope Boyes and Simpsons personal traditions - Jim
and Barry grew up hearing and singing the elaborate harmonised versions of hymns and carols found in The Three Harks and While
Shepherds in their families as well as in chapel choirs. Whilst Lester was a chorister in Derby Cathedral, singing the carols
of the Anglican repertoire much of which was collected and developed by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.