The fifth programme in our A Choral Odyssey series explores the origins of the carol – in its earliest form it was a round dance, more secular than sacred. Mediaeval carols were for everyone from festivities in the town square or village green to celebrations in church. We will demonstrate the way mediaeval carols have influenced musicians of more recent times especially the composer, Cecilia McDowall. We will set it in the context of the historic medieval Kent house Penshurst Place, and consider how Christmas – and carols – might have been celebrated historically. King Henry VIII used Penshurst as a hunting lodge and it is believed that he may well have spent Christmas there one year. Only the chorus survives of his carol Green grow’th the holly and for this programme Cecilia McDowall has specially composed the solo verses.

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