Masters In This Hall

Traditional/arr. John Riggio

This song has its roots as an old French dancing song. It was later transformed into an English carol, but we've redone it in a Celtic style. The meter (6/8) and tempo (150 bpm) give it a rollicking feel, and we ended up conducting it in two.

On the CD, the piece begins with a lush synth pad and an improvised penny whistle solo. Measure 1 doesn't begin until the B (no 3rd) chord is played and you hear the pulse begin, which will help your soloist know when to enter. The solo is optional of course, so you could have your entire group begin singing at measure 5.

At measure 21 our Celtic groove is established with many drums beating in time. We've added jingle bells (it is a Christmas carol, after all), and over everything, a fiddle and penny whistle play a spirited motif. The song is played three times at measure 25, with all singers entering at measure 29. After the third verse, our soloist returns and finishes the song with a call-and-response with the choir.

Given the nature and tradition of this carol, we've taken a more legit approach with it. We had our singers use their head voices, keeping their tone round and vibrato-less. (If you have access, a nice big hall or church with natural reverb would be a great place to perform this piece.) For our recording, we used traditional English sacred text. However, we have also provided alternate secular lyrics here for those who might need them.

verse 1 (solo):
Masters in this Hall, hear ye news today,
tidings of great joy this merry Christmas day!
(all): Masters in this Hall, hear ye news today,
tidings of great joy this merry Christmas day!
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell, sing we glad!
Gather 'round the tree and sing with folks
the songs that ne'er are sad!
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell, sing with cheer!
Celebrate with friends and family,
'Tis the best day of the year!
verse 2:
We've a decent snowfall;
all the world's aglow.
See the children outside
playing in the snow.
repeat chorus
verse 3:
Carolers, be welcome,
dressed in warm attire.
Come in from the cold
and warm up by the fire.
repeat chorus
verse 4 (solo, then all): same as original to ending

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.