Development Of The Carol

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The seasonal songs popular in western music, especially in conjunction with the Christmas season, known as carols, have a rich and complex history full of tradition and controversy in the realms of both sacred and secular music.
The concept of singing carols to celebrate holidays developed during the 13th century in France, although what was to be known as carol music had been around from centuries earlier. It is believed that when troubadour Saint Francis of Assisi had made the first Greccio crib, he began to sing songs honoring the Nativity and the joy of celebration in religion, for this was a strict Puritanical era wherein communal singing, drama, and any type of festivity was looked down upon in the first place, and absolutely abhorred in religion.
The concept of singing these carols gained popularity throughout Europe towards the end of Puritan reign and the growth of the Mystery Play throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. The Mystery Plays were dramatic pieces celebrating the birth of Christ. The basic plainsong and antiphon of the time were lacking the drama required by these performances, and soon religious songs for these performances were being written in the vernacular for these plays. The still popular English "Coventry Carol" dates back to this period. By the end of the 15th century, carols had begun to stand on their own as anonymous pieces of music, and were dung on almost all religious feast days, including Christmas, Easter, and throughout the Spring in celebration of the peoples emancipation from Puritanism.
As mentioned earlier, the music that these early carols were based on dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries Medieval period, where it was used as dance music. The word carol itself is derived form the Latin "choraula," which was a monophonic ring dance accompanied by singing during the Medieval era. The form of the early carols followed the binary structure of these dances. It consisted of the stanza, which was basically a verse, and was used as a resting point for the dancers, and the burden, which was a theme repeated at the beginning and ending of each piece as well as between each stanza. It expressed a sort of summary of the music, and was the time for the dancers to really swing.

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...the 19th century, the better carol music had been weeded out form the worse, and it began to be collected in a more systematic fashion. Countries throughout Europe began to amass their old carol folk songs into collections of national music. An innumerable number of old carol tunes that were hidden in the memory of old country folk were rediscovered and published for the first time.
Today Christmas remains the most popular season to celebrate with carols. America has birthed her own collection of Christmas carols, although one will find these more modern 20th century carols to have much less of a connection with religion, if any at all, than the older European carols. A wide variety of carols form various geographic areas and eras continue to be sung by choirs and vocal ensembles, in churches, and for various forms of entertainment. There have even been instrumental arrangements and contemporary renditions of many of the older carols. Although in many ways the carol has been modernized, especially in the American culture, the beautiful simplicity and antiquity of the music, as well as the remarkable history and tradition they imply, cannot be ignored.
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