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Folkish songs for Christmas

Christmas and Yule songs with guitar chords, and a few parts for bass voice and/or soprano recorder. Songs tend to be pitched for medium-to-low range voices (most of the Christmas songs you'll find on the Web are pitched for high voices). Because the guitar chords are pitched a little low, you can capo up to a comfortable range for your group. We have tested these guitar chords, and they work reasonably well. Where SATB arrangements are given, the key will usually be higher. More Christmas carols elsewhere on my Web site: Christmas carols and Yuletide songs. More SATB arrangements of Christmas carols and songs here. Please note that I also have a separate page with Folkish songs for worship.

Apple Tree Wassail (lead sheet)
Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella (lead sheet)
Cornish Wassail (lead sheet -- SATB)
Deck the Halls (SATB)
The Friendly Beasts (SATB)
Good King Wenceslas (SATB)
Here We Come A-Wassailing (SATB)
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (lead sheet)
Jingle Bells (SATB)
Joy to the World (SATB)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (SATB)
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O Christmas Tree (SATB)
We Three Kings (SATB)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas (SATB)
What Child Is This? (lead sheet, with easy bass part)

 

Apple Tree Wassail — Traditional English

For the Christmas season.

Intro: Lily, white lily, oh lily-white pin [meaning, a bright silver pin]
Please to come down and let us come in.
Lily, white lily, oh lily-white smock,
Please to come down and pull back the lock.

Refrain:
For it’s our wassail, jolly wassail,
Joy come to our jolly wassail.
Well they may bloom and well they may bear,
That we may have apples and cider next year.

1. Master and mistress, oh are you within?
Please to come down and let us come in.

Refrain.

2-4. There was an old farmer who had an old cow
But for to milk her he didn’t know how.
He put his old cow all in his old barn,
And a little more liquor won’t do us no harm.
Harm me boy harm, harm me boys harm,
And a little more liquor won’t do us no harm.

Refrain.

Outro: Lily, white lily, oh lily-white pin,
Please to come down and let us come in.
Lily, white lily, oh lily-white smock,
Please to come down and pull back the lock.

Tag: Oh, the ringles and the jingles, and the tenor of the song goes:
Merrily — merrily — merrily;
Oh, the tenor of the song goes:
Merrily;–

(spoken) Hatfuls and capfuls and three bushel bags’ full
And little heaps under the stairs
Hip, hip, hooray!

Lead sheet

Recorded by the Watersons on their album For Pence and Spicy Ale.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Provençal carol attributed to Émile Blémont (16th C.)
English words adapted from a translation by Edward Cuthbert Nunn (1868-1914)

***CAPO UP 3 frets (key of F)

D - Em A / D - A D /
- - - A / G D Em A /
Bm A D A D / Bm A D A D /

1. Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Bring a torch, and quickly run.
Come see Jesus, good folk of the village
Christ is born, and Mary's calling.
Ah! Ah! beautiful is the mother,
Ah! Ah! beautiful is her child.

2. It is wrong when babies are sleeping,
It is wrong to talk so loud.
Stop your talking one and all!
Lest this noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! Hush! quietly now he slumbers,
Hush! Hush! quietly now he sleeps.

3. Who comes there, who's knocking so loudly?
Who comes there, who knocks on the door?
Open wide! for I bear a basket
Filled high with cakes, which I have brought here.
Knock! Knock! let us inside the stable!
Knock! Knock! so we can celebrate!

4. Softly, come and enter the stable;
Softly, come for just a short while.
Go and see, how charming is Jesus!
Brown is his brow, his cheeks are rosy!
Oh! Oh! see how the child is sleeping,
Oh! Oh! see how he smiles and dreams.

Lead sheet

French words:

1. Un flambeau, Jeanette Isabelle,
Un Flambeau, courons au berceau.
C'est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau,
Le Christ est né, Marie appelle:
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que la mère est belle,
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que l'enfant est beau.

2. C'est un tort quand l'Enfant someille
C'est un tort de crier si fort.
Taisez-vous l'un et l'autre d'abord!
Au moindre bruit Jésus s'éville.
Chut! Chut! Chut! Il dort à merveille!
Chut! Chut! Chut! Ivoyez comme il dort.

3. Qui vient là, frappant de la sorte?
Qui vient là, frappant comme ça?
Ouvrez donc! J'ai posé sur un plat
De bons gâteaux qu'ici j'apporte.
Toc! Toc! Toc! Ouvrez-nous la porte!
Toc! Toc! Toc! Faisons grand gala!

4. Doucement dans l'étable close,
Doucement venez un moment.
Approchez, que Jésus est charmant!
Comme il est blanc, comme il est rose!
Do! Do! Do! que l'Enfant repose!
Do! Do! Do! qu'il rit en dormant.

Cornish Wassail
traditional English

C G F C / Am Em G C /
C - F G / Am Em G C /

Now Christmas is comen and New Year begin
Pray open your doors and let us come in

Refrain: With our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail.
And joy come with our jolly wassail.

O Master and Mistress sitting down by the fire,
While we poor wassail boys are traveling the mire.

Refrain.

This ancient house we will kindly salute;
It is an old custom you need not dispute.

Refrain.

We are here in this place, orderly we stand;
We're the jolly wassail boys with a bowl in our hands.

Refrain.

We hope that your apple trees will prosper and bear
And bring forth good cider when we come next year.

Refrain.

We hope that your barley will prosper and grow
That you may have plenty and some to bestow.

Refrain.

Good Mistress and Master how can you forbear,
Come fill up out bowl with cider or beer.

Refrain.

Good Mistress and Master sitting down at your ease
Put your hands in your pockets and give what you please.

Refrain.

I wish you a blessing and a long time to live,
Since you've been so free and willing to give.

Refrain.

Lead sheet with melody only -- SATB arrangement



Deck The Hall
traditional Welsh song

A - - - / E7 A AE7 A /
A - - - / E7 A AE7 A /
E7 - A - / A F#m B7 E /
A - - - / D A AE7 A /

1. Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

2. See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

3. Fast away the old year passes,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Sing we joyous, all together,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

SATB arrangement in key of D

Some of Walt Kelley's fractured version:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla-walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin on the trolley,
Swaller dollar caulifower, alley-garoo!
Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble, woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie,
Dibble dabble scribble-scrabble, goof, goof, goof!

The Friendly Beasts
anonymous translation of a 12th C. song

D - A D / - G A D /
D G A Bm / D - A D /

1. Jesus, our brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus, our brother, strong and good.

2. "I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried his mother uphill and down,
"I carried his mother to Bethlehem town;
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

3. "I," said the cow, all white and red,
"I gave him my manger for his bed,
"I gave him hay to pillow his head;
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

4. "I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave him my wool for his blanket warm,
"He wore my coat on Christmas morn;
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

5. "I," said the dove, from the rafters high,
"I cooed him to sleep that he should not cry,
"We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I;
"I," said the dove, from the rafters high.

6. Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
The gifts they gave Emmanuel.

SATB arrangement in key of F

Four more verses of varying quality, perhaps useful for Christmas pageants:

7. "I," said the dog with muzzle white,
"I guarded the child through darkest night,
"I watched for him till morning light,
"I," said the dog with muzzle white.

8. "I," said the cat with warm gray fur,
"I sang him to sleep with my soft purr,
"I sang to him so he would not stir,
"I," said the cat with warm gray fur.

9. "I," said the mouse, "the poorest of you,
"I offered to him my love most true,
"This was the greatest gift that he knew,
"I," said the mouse, "the poorest of you."

10. "I," said the camel, traveler bold,
"I followed the star that was foretold,
"I bore him gifts of spices and gold,
"I," said the camel, traveler bold.

Good King Wenceslas
John Mason Neale, 19th C. (really a song for St. Stephen's Day)

D - G D / - - G D /
D - G D / A Bm D BmG D /

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blow stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

SATB arrangement in G

Here We Come A-Wassailing
traditional English

D - - - / G D Em A /
DG D DG D / D GA D G / DBm GA D -

1. Here we come a-wassailing, among the leaves so green,
And here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.

Refrain: Love and joy come to you, and to your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year;

2. We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door;,
But we are neighbors' children, whom you have seen before.

Refrain.

And God send you a happy New Year.

3. Good master and good mistress, as you sit by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children, who wander in the mire.

Refrain.

4. God bless the master of this house, likewise the mistress, too;
And all the little children, that round the table go.

Refrain.

SATB arrangement in D

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876), 1849

G C G - / C A7 D7 - /
G C G - / C D7 G - /
B7 - Em - / D A7 D - /
G C G - / C D7 G - /

1. It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to men [all],
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

2. Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

3. But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

4. And ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,--
Look now; for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
5. For, lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold:
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Lead sheet only

Jingle Bells
John Pierpont, 1859

D - / - G / - A7 / - D /
D - / - G / - A7 / - D /
D - / - - / G D / E A7 /
D - / - - / G D / A7 D /

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Refrain: Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh, oh!
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side;
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot,
He got into a drifted bank
And there we got upsot.

Refrain.

A day or two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh
He laughed at me as I there sprawling laid
But quickly drove away.

Refrain.

Now the ground is white,
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
And sing this sleighing song.
Just get a bob-tailed nag,
Two-forty for his speed,
And hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you'll take the lead.

Refrain.

SATB arrangement in key of G.

JingleCoins, an anti-consumerist parody version.

Joy To The World
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), this version from Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

C - - - - G C - / F - G - C - /
- - - - - - - - /
Am - C - /
G - - - /
C - - - Em G C - /

1. Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

2. Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

3. No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make his blessings flow
As far as sin in found,
As far as sin is found,
As far, as far as sin is found.

4. He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love;
And wonders of his love;
And wonders, wonders of his love.

SATB arrangement in key of D

O Come, All Ye Faithful
John Wade (18th C.); trans. composite, based on F. Oakeley, 1852

C - G - / Am - G - /
Am - G C / G D7 G - /
C - G - / Am - G - /
C - - - / Am - C - /
F - G C / Am G C - /

1. O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the king of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

2. Lo, humble shepherds,
Hasting to his cradle,
Leaving their flocks in the fields, draw near.
We, too, with gladness,
Thither bend our footsteps,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

3. Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above:
"Glory to God,
In the highest;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord."

SATB arrangement in key of G

Latin words:

1. Adeste, fideles,
Laeti triumphantes:
Venite, venite in Bethlehem:
Natum videte regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

2. En grege relicto,
Humiles ad cunas,
Vocati pastores approperant;
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

3. Cantet nunc hymnos,
Chorus angelorum;
Cantet aula coelestium,
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Veneite adoremus
Dominum.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Veni Emmanuel)
13th C. hymn, translation composite, this version based on John Mason Neale, 1854, as adapted in Hymns of the Spirit, 1937.

Dm C Dm / - C Dm /
C Dm C / Dm C Dm /
F - C Dm* C Dm
*Add an extra half-measure of Dm here.

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel;
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

2. O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy shades of night,
Break through the clouds and bring us light;
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

3. O come, O come, thou Lord of love,
Declare thy law all law above;
From dire oppressions bring release,
And lead us in the way of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Christmas Tree
English version of traditional German "O Tannenbaum"

D - / A7 D /
- - / A7 D /
DGG A7 / - D /
- - / A7 D /

1. O Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us.
Not only in the summer bright,
But still when winter snow is white.
O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree,
Thy branches green delight us!

2. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

3. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

SATB arrangement in key of D, with different third verse

We Three Kings
John H. Hopkins, Jr., c. 1857
v. 5 by Vincent B. Silliman from Hymns of the Spirit, 1937

***CAPO UP 3 frets (C minor)

Am - Em Am / - - Em Am /
- G C - / Dm AmEm Am G /
C - F C / - - F C /
Am G F Am / C - F C /

1. We three kings of orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Refrain: O-o, star of wonder, star of night,
Star, with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

2. Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again
King for ever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Refrain.

3. Frankincense to offer have I,
incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship God most high.

Refrain.

4. Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

Refrain.

5. See him now in power arise,
Mighty through his sacrifice.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Echo it, earth and skies.

SATB arrangement in key of E minor, with vv. 3 and 4 relegated to the bottom of the page

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
16th C. English

G C / A D /
B7 Em / CCD G /
G D / A7 D /
G Em / CCD G /

We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas and a happy new year.

Oh bring us some figgy pudding (3x)
And a cup of good cheer.

We won't go until we get some (3x)
So bring it out here!

We wish you a Merry Christmas (3x)
And a happy New Year.

SATB arrangement same key (G)

What Child Is This?
Tune: Greensleeves; Words: William Chatterton Dix, 1865

Em - D - / C - B7 - /
Em - D - / C B7 Em - /
G - D - / C - B7 - /
G - D - / C B7 Em - /

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping.

Refrain: This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste, to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Refrain.

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
All tongues and peoples own him;
The King of Kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him.

Last refrain:
Raise, raise, the song on high,
While Mary sings a lullaby,
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Lead sheet with easy bass part, in E minor

 

Page updated 28 December 2013.