Home » Irish Christmas Traditions » The Kilmore Carols in Ireland
Send to Friend

The Kilmore Carols in Ireland


The Kilmore Carols

The Kilmore carols are a haunting and beautiful collection of Christmas carols from the village of Kilmore in County Wexford (Ireland). In the depths of harsh winter, a reminder of sacred celebration invests these beautiful old melodies, many of which are sung to this day in the village of Kilmore and elsewhere. You can listen to the "The Darkest Midnight," arguably the best known and most loved of these cherished Carols. This was the carol sung on Christmas Day. This song is also recorded on the album "To Warm the Winter's Night."

Play Accompanying Music

There are thirteen carols in all, one for Christmas night ("The Darkest Midnight" ), and one for each of the twelve days of Christmas. More recently, these carols are sung on New Years Day, Christams Day, Little Christmas (January 6th) and the Sunday that falls between Christmas and New Years.

The songs are in an old plaintive style, devoid of harmony, but full of ornamentation. Having everyone sing the ornamentatation together and unaccompanied, or even with organ, must have made for a mesmerizing sound those many years ago in that small parish church. It's hard to believe that such a small area had its own speical selection of songs for the 12 days!

The original thirteen carols are from a variety of sources. One, "Jerusalem, My Happy Home"(16th century)is from England. Some were composed by Bishop Luke Wadding during the 17th Century.Those which are the greatest source of pride are by a local returned missionary, William Deveraux, (16th century). His descendants continued to sing these carols up to recent times. "Good People All At Christmas Time" (The Enniscorty Carol) is considered to be a 'local' carol.

Originally, the term "carol' meant a song for dancing, particularly to mark the changing of seasons. Songs outside the plainchant tradition often had their melodic origins in folk melodies are were adapted to carols in celebration of Christmas.

The Kilmore Carols are a true exception in that they were strictly written and exclusively performed within the context of the Mass. To a large degree, this still holds true.

For more on Irish carols and carol singing in Ireland, click here.

The Darkest Midnight

The darkest midnight in Decemberno snow nor hail nor winter stormShall hinder us for to rememberthe babe that on this night was bornWith shepherds we are come to seethis lovely infant's glorious charmsBorn of a maid as the prophets saidthe God of love in Mary's arms. Have you not heard the sacred story,how man was made those seats to fillWhich the fallen angels lost in glorythrough their presumption, pride and willThey thought us mean for to obtainsuch glorious seats and crowns in heavenSo through a cheat they got Eve to eatthe fruit to be avenged on man. Ye blessed angels join our voiceslet your guilded wings beat fluttering o'erWhile every soul set free rejoicesand every one now must adoreWe'll sing and pray that he always mayGood people one and all defendGod grant us grace in all our daysa Merry Christmas and a Happy end.

For more on Irish carols and carol singing in Ireland, click here.