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The melody for this jolly, beloved and also occasionally detested carol came from the scale-wise Easter tune "Tempus adest floridum" contained in the 1582 Finnish carol collection Piae Cantiones. The modern lyrics were written by J.M. Neale and first published as a Boxing Day carol in Neale and Helmore's Carols for Christmastide (1853 - 1854).
The fictional text is loosely based on the tenth century Bohemian prince Wenceslas (Vaclav in the original tongue) born ca. 907 near Prague of a Christian father, Duke Vratislav, and a pagan mother, Dragomira, but raised by Ludmilla, his Christian grandmother. Vaclav became Duke (never a king) around 925, spread Christianity throughout the land, which, four years later, led to his murder by his pagan brother Boleslav. The assassination took place in a church where he had been given sanctuary, and soon rumors of miraculous events grew. Through spiritual awe or earthly threat of punishment, the German Emperor, Boleslav converted and moved his brother's remains to St. Vitus' Cathedral in Prague, where on certain occasions, now patron saint Vaclav receives a golden crown on his skull. He is said to have been generous to the poor and even worked in the fields harvesting corn and grapes to make bread and wine for church Mass.
This arrangement comes with a Beginners' third violin part, as well as an optional bass part for use with string orchestra.
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