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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.

BBC Welsh Chorus recordings
Nimbus NI5310 (CD: Celebration: Christmas Fanfares & Carols)
Conductor – John Hugh Thomas
Organ -Huw Tregelles Williams
Arranged – Sir David Willcocks

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

Chicago Symphony Low Brass Ensemble recordings
VOX 7501 (CD: Christmas with the Symphony Brass of Chicago)
Conductor – Barry Faldner

Choir of St. John’s, Cambridge recordings
London 421 022 (CD: Christmas Weekend -16 Favourite Carols)

Placido Domingo recordings
FM 37245 (CD: Christmas with Placido Domingo)
Orchestra – Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Conductor -Lee Holdridge

Deborah Henson-Conant recordings
Golden Cage (CD: The Gift)
Harp– Deborah Henson-Conant

Kings College Choir, Cambridge recordings
London 444 848 (CD: Noel – Christmas at Kings)
Conductor – Sir David Willcocks

Mannheim Steamroller recordings
American Gramaphone Records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

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

Robert Shaw Chorale 
RCA 6429 – 2 – RG (CD: A Festival of Carols)
(Arrangers – Robert Shaw/Alice Parker)

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