The Coventry Carol – Video

Notre Dame

I have always like The Coventry Carol.  I’m into dark, medieval music, particularly Christmas music, which seems like it should be bright, not dark.  So I decided I wanted to record it.  But I needed a little research first.  I was surprised at what I found, and this led to the video (hint, read this before listening)

The carol was part of a “mystery play” that went back to the 14th century.  The words were written down in the early 16th century and the music in the late 16th century, some believe in a bid to try to get it performed again (it wasn’t).  This song is about the slaughter of the innocents.

Yes, The Coventry Carol is a lullaby sung by the women of Bethlehem to try to calm their frightened babies as they wait for Herod’s men to murder the babies. “Bye bye, lully lullay.” Nice, right? So “the little tiny child” in the song is not the baby Jesus, but some poor, doomed child.

The words and music survived as much by accident as anything, as such things do, and was revived again in the 20th century.During The Battle of Britain in WW2, the Germans bombed Coventry on the 14th of November, 1940.  On Christmas, 1940, the BBC played The Coventry Carol live as it was being sung from the bombed out ruins of the Coventry cathedral.

So the song went from the poor woman resigned to their fate when brought up against powers beyond their understanding to the women shaking their fists at the sky when brought up against these powers.  You may bomb us and kill our children, but we will rise from the ashes.

(See Wikipedia for more details)

So that is were I was coming from in the recording and video.

Quick note – I picked a medieval image of the nativity from my own pictures (see image at top).  It wasn’t until later that I realized that the image is from Notre Dame and the rood screen most likely was destroyed in the fire last year.  So in ways, this is a memorial to that great piece of art.

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

Technical details, if you want them:

Most of this was recorded with my modular synthesizer.  If you can understand words, I was using the VC340 vocoder (see my review).


If you remember, I recently reorganized my studio.  In many ways this recording is an after effect of that reorganization.




26 thoughts on “The Coventry Carol – Video

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  5. socpapahatzis

    This sounds touchingly introverted in an original and imaginative way. Some echoes of the work of W. Carlos on Purcell are very welcome. It totally works!
    I am a huge fan of medieval and renaissance music myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Keith's Ramblings

    Congratulations on taking this beautiful carol and putting your own modern spin on it. Simply lovely. It’s always one of my favourites when it’s sung at the annual Winchester Cathedral Carol service – just two weeks to go to the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tidalscribe

    I love Coventry Carol, but have never heard it like this, intriguing and creative. I didn’t know all that background of the carol, I can imagine the singing at Coventry Cathedral. It’s a very poignant experience visiting the two cathedrals. Though not old, Bethlehem Down is a carol that evokes a similar mood.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21

    Trent I love your version of the Coventry, it always been one of my favourite carols…strange. Like you I like the medical arrangements of Carole’s best… Most of those spring from the pagan .
    Here is my favourite versions of a Coventry Carole by Annie Lennox.

    And my most favourite favourite ever God rest ye merry gentlemen. Annie Lennox again .

    I love Christmas songs 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      lol, what it says about the fact that you like songs about killing babies? Actually, I know what you mean – knowing the history makes the song so human. In ways the song speaks to our shared humanity more than most Christmas carols, and with its association with WW2, the point is even clearer.


    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Making the music is my favorite part, of course, but making videos is a lot of fun :) I’ll be honest, I ha no idea what I was going to do with this at first, but once I started making images, the video built itself.

      Liked by 1 person


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