Ronald Corp

Conductor & Composer


The Huron Carol

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Programme Notes

The Huron Carol (or ‘ ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime’) is a Canadian Christmas hymn (Canada’s oldest Christmas song), written in 1643 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada.  Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song’s original Huron title is ‘Jesous Ahatonhia’ (Jesus, he is born).  The English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton being derived from Brébeuf’s original song and Huron religious concepts.  In the English version, Jesus is born in a ‘lodge of broken bark’, and wrapped in a ‘robe of rabbit skin’.  He is surrounded by hunters instead of shepherds, and the Magi are portrayed as ‘chiefs from afar’ that bring him ‘fox and beaver pelts’ instead of the more familiar gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The hymn also uses a traditional Algonquian name, Gitchi Manitou, for God.

The hymn’s melody is based on a traditional French folk song, ‘Une Jeune Pucelle’ (A Young Maid).  This setting by Ronald Corp dates from 2006 and makes some small changes to the original melody.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round,
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O Sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you;
Come kneel before the radiant boy, who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.