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The melody of this well-known carol appears to be sixteen century and to belong to a rousing drinking song. It was joined to the Christmas words probably in the eighteenth century. Although popular, there is a dearth of singable English translations. The problem with the one perpetuated by NOBC is that it is more a paraphrase than a translation; and those choirs that don’t wish to sing it often attempt the Catalan, something best left to native speakers. Hence my new translation, which is as accurate as possible while still approximating to singable verse. It also restores Adam to stanza 2 and, I hope, makes clear the carol’s narrative pattern. The rose is Mary; the lily in stanza 3 is also Mary, her bud, Christ (the flower symbolism is familiar from the Middle Ages on). I have had to add some anacruses to the melody to fit my translation.
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Reviews of El Desembre Congelat (’Winter’s freezing icy chill’) Catalan Carol for SATB choir + keyboard. In English.
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