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Carols, tunes and winter songs from the North Countries

Is there a remedy for sadness? If so, it is surely to be found in Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to purge Melancholy, a series of music books published in London between 1698 and 1720, and so popular that each edition sold out shortly after its appearance. Many of the songs in the collection have tunes in common with The dancing master, a collection of dances with choreographies published by John Playford and going through seventeen editions between 1651 and c.1720. One of these is To drive the cold winter away, during which the dancers would get so warm that they forgot winter's icy cold. Others with the same effect included Cold and raw the north wind doth blow, Christmas cheer, Puddings and pies and New Year's Eve.

Steven and Herod is a legend found throughout Europe, and tells of the myterious resurrection of a roast chicken. Dating from the middle ages, the story is found in several Scandinavian folk carols in versions so tuneful that the audience can already join in after the second verse. Oral tradition in the British Isles has preserved several more complicated versions of the same story.

In 1582 the most important publication of early Christmas carols appeared - the Piae cantiones. This collection of songs in Latin and Swedish songs going back to the middle ages was prepared for publication by a Finnish student at the University of Rostock and still remains popular in Finnland and Sweden, where it is regarded as important cultural heritage.