Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Music Spot The Boar's head Carol (Steeleye Span version)

You may wonder what on earth serving a boar's head at a feast has to do with Christmas.

I learn from the Oxford Book of Carols that there is an ancient tradition at Queen's College Oxford to serve a Boar's head at a feast at Christmas, which goes back to 1340.

According to the legend - well, Wikipedia, anyway - an Oxford student was studying a book on Aristotle while walking through the forest on his way to Midnight Mass. Suddenly, he was confronted by an angry wild boar. Having no other weapon, the resourceful Oxonian rammed his metal-bound philosophy book down the throat of the charging animal, whereupon the brute choked to death.

That college - and quite a few others around the world where alumni of Queens Oxford have introduced the tradition - still keeps up the tradition of holding a boar's head themed event in the Christmas season. Here is the website for the annual Boar's Head Gaudy which they will hold this coming Saturday. That tradition appears to have given rise in the fifteenth century to this carol, sung here by Steeleye Span.

I looked for a recording of this carol to post here as a Christmas music piece because I remember singing it in the seventies as a boy chorister, and I found the version below.

I used to really love the Steeleye Span version of the Boar's Head Carol, but had totally forgotten it until my internet search threw this up today. It is many years since I've heard anything by Steeleye Span, which is astonishing considering how good they were. It won't be an interval of many years until I next listen to one of their recordings.


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