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God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

(Anonymous/Traditional English)

This Christmas carol is unknown in origin but it is thought to be from 16th or 17th century England and known to have appeared as an incipit in William Hones Ancient Mysteries Described in 1823.  The carol collector William Sandys, who possibly gave it the name we know today, took it and published it in his Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern in 1833 although the refrain and the last two verses did not appear at that time and were added some time later.  The title has a comma added after “Merry” which denote that gentlemen are asked to rest merry and not suggest that they are merry gentlemen.

Charles Dickens made use of the carol when Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by a caroller that came to his door and began to sing it to him, only to be angrily chased away with the threat of a ruler.

The cover versions of this carol are too numerous to mention but some acclaimed artists that have recorded it are Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Jethro Tull, Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, Chicago, Garth Brooks, Carly Simon, Boyz II Men, Barenaked Ladies and Iron Butterfly.

Black Dyke Mills Band recordings
Chandos 4541 (CD: A Christmas Fantasy)

Boston Pops recordings
Philips 416 287 – 2 (CD:  We Wish You a Merry Christmas)
Conductor – John Williams

DG 419 414-2 (CD: White Christmas)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

RCA 09026-61685-2 (CD: Pops Christmas Party)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

Sony SK 48232 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – John Williams
Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra recordings
Naxos 8.990005 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – Richard Hayman

Rochester Pops Orchestra
Koch CHD 1531 (CD: Joy to the World  Carols for Orchestra and Chorus)

St Louis Philharmonic Orchestra recordings
Sonari records – 7 55724 00272 3 (CD: Christmas with the Philharmonic)
Conductor – Robert Hart Baker

Sources:

  1. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/god_rest_you_merry_gentlemen.htm
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Rest_Ye_Merry_Gentlemen
  3. http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-10-003-e
  4. http://www.bardstown.com/~mtipton/christmas/godrest.htm