Good news travels like wildfire – and for “Sussex Carol”, it seems carols travel just as fast!
Luke Wadding, an Irish Franciscan friar and historian, is credited with its lyrics in a 1684 work called “Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs.” The lyrics and tune as we sing them today come from Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, but not in the way you might think: they heard Harriet Verrall singing it in a small town called Horsham in Sussex. They published these lyrics and a tune in 1919.
“On Christmas Night True Christians Sing,” the believed source of the Sussex Carol’s lyrics, has publications that reach back to 1878 and had performances that dated back to 1912. It’s still a staple in Lessons and Carols performances, especially in England, and listening to the song tells us exactly why: it tells us precisely why we should be joyfully singing and proclaiming in the streets, “Jesus Christ is born!”
Want to hear the “Sussex Carol”? Listen to the Willows Academy choir sing it below: