‘Here we come a-carolling’

Alec Davison writes about Quaker hymns and Friends’ relationship with music

Carols are ‘a dancing kind of song’. | Photo: Pixabay via pexels.com.

‘The universe is the song of God’, imagined the Quaker composer Donald Swann. He and his friend Sydney Carter were, I think, two of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century, abundant in melody and memorable in lyric. They opened up the world of carols, not limiting them just to Christmas-tide, but creating songs of joy for singing throughout all the seasons of the year, and for all spiritualities and faiths. Altogether they wrote many hundreds of songs, anthologised in a host of publications. Some are now almost folk songs – Sydney Carter’s ‘Lord of the Dance’ and Donald Swann’s ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ (‘Mud, mud, glorious mud’), written with Michael Flanders, are nearly ‘Anon’!

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