This song from the 1500's is reputed to have been written by King Henry VIII of England and was first utilized as the melody of "Geensleeves" before being rewritten as a Christmas carol.
2. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
This Advent carol comes from the ancient Liturgy of St. James, which was a Greek-language liturgy that took shape in the Fourth Century A.D., and was thus chanted by monks for centuries before it was translated and became a popularly-sung carol in the last few centuries.
3. Es Kommt Ein Schiff (The Song of the Ship)
A rollicking Twelfth Century Chistmas carol sung in both its original German and in English, this profoundly mystical song is an example of the "ship-carols" beloved of the Middle Ages, in which Mary is likened to a ship carrying the precious cargo of the Infant Christ.
4. Divinum Mysterium (Of the Father's Love Begotten) This plainsong chant, which was widely used across the Middle Ages, is an adaptation of verses written by the Romano-Spanish lawyer, Prudentius, in the late Fourth Century A.D.
5. Downe In Yon Forrest
An eerily beautiful carol from the 1400's England which marries Romantic literature's Holy Graal imagery to the event of the Incarnation of Christ.
6. The Coventry Carol
This acappela rendition of this plaintive carol comes from the 1400s cycle of Mystery Plays of Coventry's "Pageant of the Shearmen and the Tailors,"sponsored yearly by the guild to recapitulate the Christmas story dramatically and musically.
7. The Sussex Carol This driving instrumental version of this traditional English carol of the 1600s illustrates the reason for its great popularity in subsequent centuries.
8. Personent Hodie
This is a Fifteenth Century carol lauding the joy of the benefits of the Incarnation to humanity which is based on the Fourteenth Century melody of a carol concerning the wondrous exploits of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus).
9. The Christ Child Lullabye
This Gaelic Christmas carol (sung in both Gaelic and English), which was written from the perspective of Mary considering her newly-born Son, though relatively modern in composition, nevertheless richly illustrates the continuing influence of Medieval carol-forms on modern musical Christmas expressions.
10. I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
This raucous crowd pleaser of a carol is another "ship-carol,"celebrating Christ's coming as cargo in Mary, as this 14th Century melody is utilized with a 15th Century text which displaces an earlier text concerning the translation of relics of the supposed three wise men to cologne, Germany's cathedral during the Middle Ages. The three kings are replaced by images of the Trinity as three ships bringing the Virgin and her Son.
11. Veni, Veni, Emanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) These Advent Vespers Antiphons date back in their composition to at least the reign of Charlemagne (771-814 A. D.). The melody to which the text is sung dates to no later (and probably much earlier) than the 13th Century.
This plainsong chant revisits the anticipatory Scriptural prophecies concerning Christ's birth.
12. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Kemper and his group use this rather late traditional British carol to illustrate how the medieval musical blend of the cultural influences of both Islamic East and Christian West might still affect modern Christmas music in an extended instrumental extemporaneous rendition.