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Christmas Songs Podcast is Live!

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Six women and three men in colorful costumes.
The American Folklife Center Mummers in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress on December 12, 2018. Seated, left-right: Deborah DeGeorge as Big Head, Jennifer Cutting as Curly Toes. Standing, left-right: Stephanie Hall as Beelzebub, George Thuronyi as Bigfoot, Stephen Winick as Father Christmas, Michelle Stefano as Thomas Jefferson, Thea Austen as Dr. B., John Fenn as Frankenstein’s Monster, Nancy Groce as Musician. Photo by Kelly Revak.

Episode three of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.

Get your podcast here!


Our latest podcast presents some of our favorite Christmas songs.  In this blog post, I’ll present the full versions of all the songs.  I’ll link to their online homes, which are in three general locations: the Library of Congress website, the Association for Cultural Equity, and the Lomax Kentucky Recordings.  All the materials are in the American Folklife Center’s archive, except the podcast-exclusive curatorial commentary and the last song, also a podcast exclusive.

At the links below, you’ll find catalog record information for the songs, as well as the audio itself.  Here goes!

We begin the podcast with excerpts from three versions of “The Cherry Tree Carol.” Stephanie Hall wrote about the song in the blog post at this link. Two of the versions we played were from Alan Lomax’s Kentucky collections, and one from one of Lomax’s radio shows.  You can find the full recordings at the following links:

“Joseph and Mary” or “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Aunt Molly Jackson.

Back Where I Come From: Christmas Singing Traditions part 2, including “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Burl Ives.

“Joseph and Mary” or “The Cherry Tree Carol” by James William Day aka Jilson Setters.


We continue with two songs from the Juan B. Rael Collection. You can find the entire collection at this link. Stephanie Hall wrote about the tradition of these songs in the blog post at this link. The individual songs are at the links below:

“Melodies from Los Reyes Magos” by Samuel Martínez y Lavadi.

“Hermanos pastores” by Adolfo Chávez and Julián Lobato.

Jean Ritchie sitting on green grass, playing a mountain dulcimer.
Jean Ritchie, Circa 1950. Photo by George Pickow. AFC George Pickow and Jean Ritchie Collection.

We followed with a song from Jean Ritchie, which you can find online at the link below, over at the Association for Cultural Equity.

Jean Ritchie: ”There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig.”

Bessie Jones dressed in 18th Century clothes appropriate to plantation workers.
Bessie Jones (left) performing with other members of the Sea Island Singers in a reenactment of Colonial-era agriculture at Colonial Williamsburg for the film Music of Williamsburg on April 28, 1960. Alan Lomax Collection. AFC 2004/004.

We went on to present several versions of the spiritual generally known as “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” including the following:

The Silver Star Singers: “Children Go Where I Send You.”

Davies Hill School Chorus: “Holy Babe.”

Bessie Jones: “Go Where I Send Thee.” 

As a bonus, at this link find Part one of Bessie Jones’s commentary on the songAt this link find part two of the commentary.

Head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman singing, outdoors on the porch of house. Behind her, and out-of-focus, a boy leans on one of the porch's pillars.
Exilia Bellaire of Baraga, Michigan, performed French-Canadian and Anglo-American songs with her husband Mose Bellaire. This is a frame of color motion-picture film shot by Alan Lomax in 1938.

We then played a related French-language song from Alan Lomax’s 1938 Michigan recordings.  I wrote about these singers in this blog post, where you can also see film footage of them singing this song. It was silent footage, later synchronized with the audio recording, which was made separately. Find the full audio at the link below:

Exilia and Moise Bellaire: “Dis-moi pourquoi un?”

We closed out with a podcast exclusive, the AFC mummers performing “The Wassail Song,” or “Gloucestershire Wassail.” I discussed the song in this blog post about mumming (see note 11).  The recording in the podcast isn’t a Library collection item, we just sang it in the studio for the podcast.  You can see this year’s mummers in the photo above, but to hear us sing the song, you’ll have to go to this link and download the episode!


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