Sans Day carol

The holly bears a berry

Music: Trad. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: Trad. Cornish
SATB, optional guitar and/or treble instrument
performance time approx 2m 40s
Range S: c#' – d'' / A: b – a' / T: f# – d' / B: G – g
Price code: C
Complexity: *

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The Sans Day or St. Day carol is named from the singing of the first three stanzas by a man from the village of St. Day, in Cornwall, England. The village itself was named after the Breton saint St. Day (or St. They), who was once venerated by many people in the area. A fourth verse appeared in a Cornish version of the carol, and was later published (in translation) by OUP alongside the original three.

This simple but engaging strophic arrangement puts the verses in the upper voices, accompanied by a jaunty ostinato in the lower voices. Everyone joins in the choruses.

The carol may be sung a cappella, or accompanied by any treble instrument (taking the accompaniment line given), with or without guitar. A full realization for guitar by Eugene Braig is provided.

The recording is by the Magpie Consort, Ohio, with Eugene Braig (guitar), from the CD All hayle to the days.


Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary bore Jesus, who was wrapped up in silk.

And Mary bore Jesus Christ, our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross.

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all.

Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead.

Words and melody from The Oxford Book of Carols © 1964 Oxford University Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Purchase – 4023: Sans Day carol

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