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Monday, 20 December 2010

~Winter Wassailing~#12: 'The Carol Of The Bells' by This Ascension

A Selection Of Seasonal Songs In The ~Streetlamp~ Stylee!

One of my most favourite pieces of Christmas music is the Ukrainian Bell Carol, better known these days as The Carol Of The Bells.
The Carol Of The Bells was written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych and premiered in 1916. The English translation of the lyrics isn't really a proper translation as the original Ukrainian chant utilises the phrasing of the vocal in such a way that to try and translate it verbatim would make it impossible to sing! The first translation/version in English was authored by Peter Wilhousky. A slightly different English version called 'Ring, Christmas Bells Ring' featuring a more Nativity themed lyric is the version that is most commonly known today.

It's one of those pieces that swam around in my subconscious for many years after I originally heard it, I think, in a Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon movie made back in the early 1970s. If it wasn't Charlie Brown then it was definitely some American animated Christmas feature that I saw in my childhood and which, probably due to it's extreme tunefulness, latched itself limpet-like to my memories of childhood Christmases. I never heard it again for many years and I think I just assumed it was an American Christmas tune that we didn't get over here.
Then sometime in the mid-90s it began to seep out into the British celebration of Christmas, bringing with it, for me any way, the ebb-tide of childhood memory that certain limp-wristed lavender soaked French authors spend seven volumes, four thousand-plus pages and over a million and a quarter words just to eulogise cake dipped in tea go on and on about. I can't think of one off the top of my head, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Nowadays it's one of the pieces of music I most look forward to hearing at Christmas, and this was helped no end by a version of the song I heard about 10 years ago by a band called This Ascension.
Now, This Ascension, like Love Spirals Downwards who I covered in an earlier Blog, are one of those bands that very lazy people brand as Goth almost purely because their vocalist is a deathly pale woman with long black hair. But once again I would say that they deserve more to be called Ethereal, or Neo-Classical even. Again, the vocalist here, Dru Allen, possesses a remarkable operatic voice of immense purity and clarity that really draws you in and makes you want to hear more. The music is not so much like the Cocteaus this time though, more a kind of Dead Can Dance/Sad Lovers And Giants/Shellyan Orphan type of thing.

This Ascension hail(or rather hailed) from Santa Barbara, California and existed between 1988 and 1999 where they released several albums and supported The Jesus And Mary Chain and Chris Isaak amongst others. They reformed briefly in 2004 and have plans to reform again next year.
Dru would go on to make music as Falling You and Mirablis.
Check out their superb website where you can find out more and get some free MP3s.
Nothing short of rather magnificent!

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