sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 12, 2018


virtual advent tour 2018: day 12
posted by soe 6:43 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2018, hosted by spritewrites.net

Greetings, Virtual Advent Tourists! I hope today, the 12th day of the 12th month, finds you well.

I’m pleased to announce that today’s host is a special guest. You may recall that earlier in the month, I mentioned that my dad is a big fan of Christmas music. He is also a reader of this blog (as is my mom), commenting occasionally as DOD. He has been following this year’s Virtual Advent Tour and has written a pair of essays relating to Christmas music for our enjoyment. (This is not DOD’s first contribution to the Virtual Advent Tour; he also penned a piece in 2016.) Today, I’m pleased to publish the first one on his behalf.

Take it away, DOD!


Early Christmas Carols

If you search for the earliest of Christmas carols, you may be disappointed by what you find. The farther back you go, the less likely you will be able to sing along. Also, the actual author of a carol may be hard to pinpoint. The farther back, the harder it gets; no Wikipedia back then. While the majority of the most popular Christmas hymns will date back to the centuries 16 to 20, a few date back to times when monks seem to have held performance rights.

So you may always know the difference, hymns are religious songs and usually somber, carols are dance music people sing along to. There seems to be some agreement that the earliest carol was “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” (“Jesus, Light of All the Nations”) written by St. Hilary of Poitier back in the 4th Century. Hilary was big into the Psalms, and while definitive authorship of any specific is murky, he is given the nod as the first Latin Christian Hymn writer. Surprise, surprise, you can hear or purchase “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” on some Bach works via iTunes or Amazon. I wouldn’t look for it on a Michael Bublé or Katy Perry album. But I digress.

I’d like to call your attention to three if not oldest, then certainly among the elders of popular carols, all of which I (and probably you) have in a record (read tape, cd or digital download) collection. The first is recommended to us by Peter Tork of the Monkees. The song is “Riu Riu Chi” which the group sang on their tv show and later issued on disk. The song is a 15th century Spanish villancico, a medieval dance form. The carol was first published in 1556 in Venice. The song is a narrative sung by a kingfisher (hence the title) and describes how God protected the Virgin Mary from an evil villain (here characterized as a wolf.) Including angels and shepherds in a Christmas celebration is quite popular. The fifth verse is translated:

I saw a thousand Angels who were singing, flying around, chanting in a thousand voices, saying to the shepherds Glory in Heaven and peace on earth for Jesus is born.

Way to go kingfisher. Peter Tork has been quoted as saying it was his favorite Monkees song because it was the only one they performed a capella. It, too, is available on iTunes and Amazon Music, and is a bonus on this year’s Monkees’ Christmas Party album on some cds sold at Target (commercial not intended). Nice song and well performed by Peter and the boys.

The second is a rather upbeat carol, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” a very popular carol of the 16th century. At a time when hymns were straitlaced and religious, this one was relatively fast and easy to dance to. I’d give it an 8 on Rate this Record. Why people are sometimes confused by this song is the change in definition of some of the language, especially the title. The first bit of clarification is the word merry. While we all think of it as meaning people in good spirits, it originally meant mighty rather than happy. To further clarify the intent of the author, you should know that the word rest originally meant make. So the call to Christians was God make you Mighty. Save us all from Satan’s power (and get out there and dance).

Finally, the third carol I call to your attention is one we all know and again refers to angels and shepherds, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Ace Collins is the author of a number of books on the genesis of songs, especially hymns and songs sung for Christmas and Easter. He points out in Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, that while the carol was first published in 1855, parts of it can be found in religious services a hundred and fifty years earlier. Further, the line from the chorus: “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” translates to Glory to God in the highest and dates back to church worship in 130 A.D. Collins asks, “If the words in the chorus go back so far, might the author be someone who knew Jesus personally?” Was it someone whose strong belief in the unique birth of Christ and the heralding of shepherds by angels was easily put into a poem/song easy to write and easy to sing. We don’t have to accept this message, but it is certainly an interesting one.

* * *

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the songs that many of us grew up singing. I hope that all of this season’s carols bring you joy. And a mighty Merry Christmas.


And thanks to you, DOD, for such a great background piece on some of the oldest carols still in rotation. I feel so much more informed after reading this piece!

See you all back here tomorrow for another mysterious door to open.

Category: arts,christmas/holiday season. There is/are 2 Comments.

December 6, 2018


early december unraveling
posted by soe 1:30 am

Early December Unravelings

It was a hectic week, which means not much knitting got accomplished. Nothing old is done. Nothing new is started. Tomorrow I vow to do one or the other.

I’ve done better on the reading front. I read the first chapter of The Muse of Nightmares, which is dark (duh!) and kind of maybe don’t want to read it right now. I was able to renew it, so maybe I’ll put it aside and try again next week. I have plenty of other paper books to choose from, including Glad Tidings, two holiday romance novellas which have been perfectly adequate bathroom reading but seem unlikely to advance beyond that. I think I’ll finish The Wolves of Willoughby Chase next, provided I can lay hands on it quickly. Otherwise, Christmas Caramel Murder, Christmas at Eagle Pond, and Ghosts of Greenglass House are the leading contenders to read next.

I’m listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which she reads, and I now feel like I have a wise girlfriend keeping me company while I wash the dishes at night. I also have Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery out on audio, which is by the same author who wrote The Bookshop on the Corner, which was fine, but nothing particularly special. I’ve listened to the first few chapters, because a lot of people seem to really think it’s sweet, but I’m not sure I’m invested enough after the first few chapters to keep going. There’s probably another half hour before we learn what the driving force of this book’s plot is going to be (there’s been almost 45 minutes of set-up so far), so I suppose I’ll give it that much. Otherwise, I’ll probably just return to hanging out with Michelle.

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 2 Comments.

December 5, 2018


top ten tuesday: cozy, wintry reads
posted by soe 1:15 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl asks about our top ten list of cozy, wintry reads. Unsurprisingly, I’m going to focus my list on Christmas reads. (Readergirl3 also narrowed her topic similarly and we have a bunch of the same books in her list.)

Here are 11 of my favorites (once I got going, I ran long…)

  1. Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales beautifully captures the nostalgia surrounding the holidays. If you can find the audio of Thomas reading it himself, it’s worth a listen. Similarly a staged reading of the text also makes for an enjoyable evening.
  2. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. Also has, as I recall, a decent 1980s made-for-tv adaptation.
  3. The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggins: An overly melodramatic Christmas picture book about a sick girl and her neighbors from the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
  4. The Polar Express, a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, tells of a boy’s test of his faith. I first read this in French in high school, and it’s a beautiful read-aloud in any language.
  5. My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins, gives you a dozen YA love stories in a range of genres from some of the top authors writing for teens today. Not all 12 stories were loved, but I could appreciate even the ones I didn’t.
  6. Speaking of which, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! gives you three interrelated Christmas stories from John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson.
  7. For many years, I did not enjoy Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but for the past decade or so, I’ve finally grown into it. I’m currently waiting on an audio version read by Jim Dale from the library.
  8. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is the source material for the original cartoon and the subsequent movies and may be one of the few times in history where the book and the adaptation are equally good.
  9. It’s been nearly a decade since I read Connie Willis’ Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, but I’d totally read the sci-fi Christmas-themed collection of stories again (or, at least, most of them).
  10. A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg gives you everything you expect from a Flagg novel — lots of laughter, Southern charm, and quirky characters. I don’t know if Southerners enjoy her writing, but this Northerner sure does.
  11. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, is a sweet YA romance set in New York City and features one of my favorite grandfather characters in recent memory. Plus, it told me that I could find copies of the OED at The Strand if I were willing to shell out for one.

How about you? What’s on your list of cozy, wintry reads?

Category: books,christmas/holiday season. There is/are 1 Comment.

December 3, 2018


virtual advent tour 2018: day 3
posted by soe 6:57 am

Welcome back to the Virtual Advent Tour! Today’s host is me!

Music is so important to making my holidays what they are. I grew up in a household where a stereo was always on, and my dad has been a big proponent of making Christmas mixes since before I was born. So I thought today I’d share three songs for your holiday listening pleasure that I’ve encountered for the first time this year:

The first is a re-imagined “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” updated for a #MeToo world. While I agree with those who say that it’s not the original intention of the song’s writers to make it seem creepy, I think some of the actions described in the song, combined with the frequent age discrepancies between the male and female singers in the duet, hit a little too close to reports from survivors of sexual assault/harassment to make it a completely comfortable song for me to listen to. Your mileage may vary, and I respect that, but for others who’ve moved away from the song, this version from Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski may give you a way back in:

Phoebe Bridgers (with Jackson Brown) dropped this cover of McCarthy Trenching’s “Christmas Song” last week, and I can see it getting a lot of play at my house this year:

Finally, singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson lost both her parents in the last year and wanted a way to reclaim the holidays at a time that was so hard for her. This version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with Leslie Odom Jr. gives you an example of what you’ll find on her new album, Songs for the Season:

That’s it from me. Join us again tomorrow for the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you want to join in with the writing of posts, drop me a line in the comments and we’ll find you a date that works.

Category: arts,christmas/holiday season. There is/are 2 Comments.

November 29, 2018


final november unraveling
posted by soe 1:31 am

Final November Unraveling

I’ve been feeling a bit unbalanced and realized that might be because I haven’t done a lot of knitting or reading lately, so this evening after Rudi went to bed I did both. I pulled out the long-lingering shawl, ripped back the partial bind-off I’d done and redid it. I don’t love the way it looks, but I’ve decided that I’m unlikely to not wear it because of that, so have forged on ahead. I still have 200 ever-shortening rows to go, though, so I’m not sure I’ll get it bound off before the end of the month, but probably before next week.

Reading wise, I managed the first essay in fellow Camel Sloane Crosley’s Look Alive Out There, which was about the dysfunctional ways urban neighbors become entwined in each others’ lives, while up in Connecticut, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

I can’t seem to force myself to open The Muse of Nightmares right now, so I’ve returned to The Alcatraz Escape, which has been in the works nearly as long as my shawl. I’m also finishing the final two chapters of Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah on audio. I’m not loving it, which is disappointing, but it’s probably a good book to read right now, all about leaving one’s comfort zone and finding new adventures. Both of those seem likely to be done before the weekend, which is good, because right now things leaving my apartment is a big goal of mine.

Hopefully next week a whole slew of knitting and reading!

(Head over to As Kat Knits to see what everyone else has going on the needles and the page.)

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 2 Comments.

November 28, 2018


library holds list explosion
posted by soe 1:26 am

My holds list at the library tends to get out of control in December and January as best-of lists begin to appear, but this year stress has moved the needle to near-full earlier than usual. I haven’t hit the 25-item request limit yet, but will soon if I’m not careful, particularly because three of the items are still on order.

Here’s what I’ve requested from the library:

  • Tana French’s The Witch Elm
  • The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez
  • The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, by Jeffrey C. Stewart
  • Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson
  • A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories, edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas
  • Kate Milford’s Ghosts of Greenglass House
  • Donald Hall’s Christmas at Eagle Pond
  • All Summer Long, By Hope Larson
  • T. E. McMorrow’s The Nutcracker in Harlem
  • The Emissary, by Yōko Tawada
  • A.J. Pearce’s Dear Mrs. Bird
  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black
  • Allie Rowbottom’s Jell-O Girls: A Family History
  • Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
  • There There, by Tommy Orange
  • Becoming, by Michelle Obama (I’m also on the audio wait list, which I’d prefer, but I suspect neither will come through before the end of the year)

What have you put a hold on at the library?

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.