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lovers' well lyrics and notes
fine winter's night lyrics

the blackbird
| giant of the road | heartland | harvest time | death and the lady

Lily of the West | Where the Moorcocks Crow | Brad's Honeybees | Lover's Lament | Bay of Biscay | New Married Couple | Lao Dueng Duen (AKA By the Light of the Full Moon) | Golden Glove | Mountain Rambler | Midnight Sojourn | Lady Fair | First Date | Botany Bay | Poll Halfpenny


Lily of the West
Shannon (vocals, Eb flute), Matt (vocals, bouzouki), Keith Murphy (mandolin)
Shannon adapted this traditional song from Colm O'Lochlainn's “Irish Street Ballads,” adding a new chorus, in typical Shannon fashion. We play “Earl’s Chair” in the middle of the song.

Verse 1.
When first I came to Ireland, some pleasure for to find
There I spied a damsel fair most pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes, like arrows pierced my breast
They call her lovely Molly-o, the Lily of the West

Verse 2.
Her hair in golden ringlets hung, her dress was spangled o’er
She had rings upon her fingers brought from a foreign shore;
She charmed both kings and princes, so costly was she dressed,
She far exceeds Diana bright, the Lily of the West.

Original CHORUS by Shannon:
I have crossed the seas to find the girl,
who brings me peace and rest
Still Molly sets my heart aflame,
The Lily of the West

Verse 3.
One day as I was walking down by a shady grove,
I spied a lord of high degree conversing with my love
She sang a song delightful while I was so distressed
I bid adieu to Molly-o, the Lily of the West.

Verse 4.
I stepped up to my rival, my dagger in my hand
And dragged him from my false love and boldly bid him stand.
Mad with desperation, I pierced him in the chest
I killed a man for Molly-o, the Lily of the West.

Verse 5.
I did stand my trial, and boldly I did plead
A flaw in my indictment did in no time have me freed
That beauty bright I did adore, the judge did her address,
Saying “go you faithless Molly-o, the Lily of the West.

Verse 6.
Now that I’ve gained my liberty, a-rovin I will go
I’ll ramble through old Ireland and travel Scotland o’er;
She thought to steal my life away, she still disturbs my rest
I still call her Molly-o, the Lily of the West.

CHORUS
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Where the Moorcocks Crow
Shannon (vocals), Matt (guitar)
Shannon learned this fine traditional song from the great singing of Donegal sean nos singer Paddy Tunney, as it appeared on a Smithsonian collection. In Paddy’s book “The Stone Fiddle” he wrote that he learned it from his mother who lamented that she could never “put the silk on it” the way her sister could!

Verse 1.
With my dog and gun through the bloomin’ heather
To seek for pastimes I took my way
Where I spied a lovely fair maid
Her charms invited me awhile to stay
I said my darling, you will find I love you
Tell me your dwelling and your name also
Excuse my name and you’ll find my dwelling
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow

Verse 2.
I said my dear if you’ll wed a rover
My former raking I will leave aside
Here is my hand and I’ll pledge my honor
If you prove constant I’ll make you my bride
If my parents knew that I love a rover
Great affliction I would undergo
I’ll stop at home for another season
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow

Verse 3.
So farewell darling for another season
I hope we’ll meet in yon moorland vale
And when we’ll meet we’ll embrace each other
I’ll pay attention to your lovesick tale
It’s hand in hand we will join together
And I’ll escort you to yon valleys low
Where the linnet sings her sweet notes so pleasing
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow
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Brad's Honeybees
Shannon (flute), Matt (guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion), Keith Murphy (piano)
This set of reels starts with the fine traditional tune “Hare’s Paw.” Shannon learned this first tune in sessions and included it in her instructional book, “Oil for the Chain.”
The second tune Shannon wrote for her stepfather, a beekeeper, and also her mom’s Prince Charming. Our fiddler friend in Chicago, Edward Wallace, called “Brad’s Honeybees” a great contra dance tune!

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Lover's Lament

Matt (vocals, guitar), Shannon (vocals, E whistle), Keith Murphy (mandolin), Nic Gareiss (feet)
We first fell in love with this song when we heard Daithi Sproule’s version, “My Dearest Dear.” Also called “The Blackest Crow,” Shannon found this version of the “Lover’s Lament” in Carl Sandburg’s “American Songbag.” She suggested Matt might like to learn it, which he did while working with a sledge hammer. That could account for the mildly prison-work-song guitar part…

Verse 1.
My dearest dear, the time draws near
When you and I must part
Little do you know, the grief or woe
Of my poor troubled heart

Verse 2.
My love you are some turtle dove
That flies from tree to tree
A-mourning for its own true love
Just as I mourn for thee

CHORUS
Oh hush my love, you will break my heart
Nor let me hear you cry
For the dearest friends will have to part
And so must you and I

Verse 3.
Your cheeks are like some pink or rose
That blooms in the month of June,
Your lips are like some music sweet
That sings this mournful tune

CHORUS

Verse 4.
My love you are some sailing ship
that sails the raging main,
If I prove false to you, my love,
The raging seas will burn

Verse 5.
I wish your heart were made of glass
All in it I’d behold
Your name in secret I would write
In letters of bright gold

Verse 6.
Your name in secret I would write,
Believe me when I say;
You are the one that I love best,
Unto my dying day

CHORUS
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Bay of Biscay
Shannon (vocals, flute), Matt (guitar), Keith Murphy (piano)
Shannon first heard great guitarist/singer John Doyle singing this song at a sweet session we had after a show at the World Folk Music Company on the south side of Chicago. She loved it so much, and John was kind enough to make a recording of it for her to learn.
The song was also recorded by Mick Moloney and Eugene O'Donnell on "Uncommon Bonds." And Norma Waterson sang it on Waterson/Carthy's "Breaking Ground."
Shannon added a bridge melody… you won’t hear that on these other legendary recordings, but we like it.


Verse 1.
My William sails on board the tender
Where he is I do not know
For seven long years I’ve been constantly waiting
To cross the Bay of Biscay-o
Additional verse by Shannon:
At 23 my first and true love
Set sail as winter’s wind did blow
With ship and crew all young and able
To cross the bay of Biscay-o

Verse 2.
One night as Mary lay a-sleeping
A knock came to her bedroom door
Saying arise, arise, my dearest Mary
To gain one glance of your William-o

Verse 3.
(Bridge Melody by Shannon… originally just sung with verse melody):
Young Mary rose, put on her clothing
And to the bedroom door did go
And there she spied her own true love
His face as white as snow

Verse 4.
William, dear, where are those blushes
Those blushes I knew long years ago
Oh Mary, dear the cold clay ashed them
And I’m only the ghost of your William-o

Verse 5.
O, Mary dear, the dawn is breaking
The time has come for me to go
And I must leave you broken-hearted
To cross the bay of Biscay-o

Verse 6.
(Bridge Melody by Shannon… originally just sung with verse melody):
Had I the gold and all the silver
And all the jewels in Mexico
I’d grant them Erin’s King
For the life of my William-o

(We sing Verse 1 as a reprise, changing the second line to “with my heart his ship did go.”)
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New Married Couple
Shannon (flute), Matt (guitar)
A set of three tunes, starting with the traditional jigs “Legacy Jig” and “Up Sligo.” Shannon learned the first tune in sessions, and heard Philly-born piper Tim Britton playing the nice variation in the B part (she does it at the end of the first and third times through the tune). And she first connected with the name of the second session tune from the Molloy/Peoples/Brady trio album.
“Newmarried Couple” rounds out the set. Shannon found it in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, moving it from G up to A.

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Lao Dueng Duen (AKA By the Light of the Full Moon)
Shannon (vocals, flute), Matt (bouzouki), Keith Murphy (guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion)
When Shannon was 16 she went to her first year of college in Central Thailand. She was lucky enough to study from fine Suphanburi singer and multi-instrumentalist, Aacharn Jiraporn. Jiraporn started Shannon off on Saw Oo, a two-stringed lap fiddle… when Shannon returned to Thailand three years later, she continued her study of some of the hit parade traditional Thai songs, including this beautiful serenade, “Lao Dueng Duen.”
We pair the song with a traditional Irish jig, “The Stone Step,” which Shannon learned from Sligo fiddler Marianne Gardiner when they were both living in Colorado.


Shannon’s rough translation:
On this full moon night
I profess my love to beautiful young Kham Dueng
“Oh, it’s late now,” I say to her, “And I must take leave.
It grieves me to leave
With my heart as full of love as the full moon.”
Though now I must leave her
My precious flower, my beloved
I shall search somewhere for us to be together,
Oh my love, my moon.
Like the fragrance of a flower
Such is the heady perfume of her essence.
It envelopes me completely, like nothing before.
The scent of her, [my soul mate], this beautiful woman
Oh the sweetness of this love!
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Golden Glove
Shannon (vocals, flute), Matt (vocals, guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion), Keith Murphy (piano)
Eric Merrill (great musician on fiddle, banjo and voice, and our talented engineer/producer for “Lovers’ Well”), suggested “Golden Glove” to Shannon. Eric always urges his friends to sing songs that Nic Jones has recorded… and for good reason. Of course, we suggest you check out Nic’s version of this song (recorded in 1977 on “Noah’s Ark Trap”), since Shannon altered the lyrics and cut several verses in Nic’s version.
Eric was skeptical at first about Shannon’s new chorus, but it grew on him (we think). We think it’s kind of a summation of marriage: from giddy infatuation, to courtship, to hellish relationship moments, to the sweetness of a marriage which has grown and deepened from going through hell!


Verse 1.
Oh it's of a young squire in Tamworth we hear
He courted a nobleman's daughter so fair,
And all for to marry her it was his intent,
Her friends and relations they'd given consent.

Verse 2.
Now a day was appointed for their wedding day
And a farmer was appointed to give her away.
But as soon as the lady this farmer did spy,
Her heart was inflamed, struck with love she did cry.

Short Verse 3 (original version is a full verse):
And the thoughts of the farmer so ran in her mind
A way for to have him, she quickly did find.

New Chorus by Shannon
Sweet is the water from the well
Higher than Heaven and deeper than Hell
Of courtship & marriage the poets do tell
Sweet is the water from the lover’s well

Verse 4.
Now she turned from the squire and all that she said
Was maybe you should seek another instead
Then waistcoat and britches this young maid put on
And away she went hunting with her dog and her gun

Verse 5.
And she often times fired but nothing she killed
Until this young farmer came into the field
To talk with the farmer it was her intent
With her dog and gun then to meet him she went.

Short Verse 6 (original version is a full verse):
"I thought you’d have been at a wedding", she lied
"Oh no" said the farmer, “I’m in love with the bride”

Chorus

Verse 7.
And the lady was pleased when she heard him so bold
And she gave him a glove that was flowered with gold
He asked where she found it and this she did tell
“I found it beside the lover’s well.”

Verse 8.
So the lady went home with her heart full of love
And she gave out a notice that she'd lost her glove
Whoever shall find it and bring it to me
I vow and declare that his bride I shall be.

Short Verse 9 (original version is a full verse):
The farmer was pleased when he heard of the news
With the glove to the maiden this farmer he goes

Chorus

Verse 10
Oh now that you’ve found me, the maiden she cried
I’ll grant you my love and I’ll be your true bride
And now that I have you fast in my snare
I’ll enjoy you forever, I vow and declare.

(We end with a Chorus)
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Mountain Rambler
Shannon (flute), Matt (guitar), Kieran Jordan (feet)
We play the “Mountain Road” in G (it’s usually in D); and pair it with The “Galway Rambler” in D (it’s usually in G). Two totally trad tunes that totally rock.
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Midnight Sojourn
Shannon (flute), Matt (bouzouki), Dan Gurney (accordion)
Shannon wrote this waltz for our friends Lindsay and Brian O’Donovan. They haved shared their home and their friendship with us—and with countless musicians—for years. We love them, we love their generosity and the way they welcome people like family. On an album of love songs from two traditional musicians living in Boston, we wanted to acknowledge this first couple in Celtic music. The O’Donovans are love in action, and “Midnight Sojourn” recalls so many happy midnight music parties at their home with our beloved Boston music community
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Lady Fair
Matt (vocals, bouzouki), Shannon (flute)
Shannon started singing this sweet broken token ballad (which she found in Colm O'Lochlainn's “Irish Street Ballads”); but she never found a nice way around it.
Then Matt started playing around with the song. He was inspired by the work he’d been doing with duo partner Flynn Cohen (first to perform covers of the Paul Brady/Andy Irvine album from 1976, and then to create their own double plectrum mega-arrangements of trad tunes and songs). And he created this rich, satisfying arrangement, a counterpoint of bouzouki and voice… with just a touch of flute.


Verse 1.
A lady fair in a garden walking
When a gentleman came riding by
He stepped up to her, all for to view her
And he said ‘fair lady, would you fancy I?’
I am no lady but a poor maiden
And a poor girl of low degree
Therefore, young man, seek another sweetheart,
I am not fitting your serving maid to be

Verse 2.
And oh, kind sir, I love another
Tho’ it’s seven years since I did him see
And seven more I will wait upon him
For if he’s living he’ll return to me
“Perhaps your lover is dead or drowne
Or maybe sailing on the se
Or maybe he is another’s husband
And he will never return to thee

Verse 3.
Oh, if he’s married, I wish him happy
And if he’s dead, sure, I wish him rest;
No other young man will e’er enjoy me
For he’s the one that I love the best
He slipped his hand inside his jacket
And seeking treasure, a token small
It being the ring that was broke between them
And when she saw that she down did fall

Verse 4.
And then he took her up in his arms
And gave her kisses most tenderly
Saying, “you’re my jewel and I am your sailor
And now at last I’ve come home to thee
I am your true and your single sailor
You thought was lost or drowned at sea.
But I’ve passed over all my toil and trouble
And I’ve come home, love to wed with thee.”
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First Date

Shannon (flute), Matt (guitar, bodhran)
Shannon wrote this first slip jig “First Date” in memory of Matt & Shannon’s first date (whereupon Matt got locked in the bathroom at Chicago’s No Exit Café…. No Joke!!)
She wrote the tune and began arranging it while playing an unsavory series of gigs in Southern Missouri. It really lifted her spirits to work on new material between shows! One of her peers in the Missouri production, fine pianist/piano box player Anthony Davis, suggested his tune to round out the set. What great fortune that he chose to call his nice tune (originally in E, but played in C here), “Pick the Lock!”

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Botany Bay
Shannon (vocals, flute), Matt (vocals, bouzouki), Keith Murphy (vocals, guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion)
We learned this wonderful Australian song from the elegant singer and historian, Danny Doyle. He got it from Trevor Lucas while he was living in England. It tells the tale of a guy being exiled to ‘Van Dieman’s Land.’ We hope he and his love were, indeed, reunited after seven long years of indentured servitude in Australia.
After learning from our friend Barney that ‘pinions’ refer to chains/shackles, we appreciated that last verse even more: “If I had the wings of a turtle dove, I’d soar over the pinion so high.” Fetters become feathers!
We included a tune after the third chorus called “Waltz for Jerry.” Shannon wrote this pretty tune for her darling nephew Jerry Michael Larsen.


Verse 1.
Goodbye to old Ireland forever,
Farewell to my true love as well
Keep the child safe in your arms love,
I need you like no words can tell,

Chorus:
Too raa lie, oor ra lie addie,
Too raa lie oor a lie aye
Too raa lie oor a lie addie,
Sailing for Botany Bay.

Verse 2.
The captain he hauls up the anchor
He sails by the stars and the sun
Oh, I swear if I live I’ll return again
To my darling’s sweet kisses I’d run

Chorus

Verse 4.
For seven long years I’m transported
For seven long years and a day
Oh, I wish I were drowned on the ocean bed
For they’ve taken my sweetheart away

Chorus

Verse 5.
Oh, if I had the wings of a turtle dove
I’d soar o’er the pinions so high
I would fly to the arms of the one I love
And safe on her bosom I would lie

Chorus
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Poll Halfpenny

Shannon (flute), Matt (guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion)
How do you end an album? With a set of traditional Hornpipes, of course. Shannon, Dan, and Matt pair a version of “The Blackbird” set dance with the old fave “Poll Halfpenny.” It’s usually written “Poll Ha’Penny,” but we weren’t ha’ing none o’ that…

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THE BLACKBIRD, traditional
 
I am but a poor girl; my misfortunes seem sad.
Many months I’ve been courting a young sailor lad.
I’ve courted him truly both noon, night and day.
Now my young sailor has gone far away.
 
Chorus: If I were a blackbird, I’d whistle and sing.
I’d follow the vessel my true love sails in.
While in the top rigging, I would there build my nest.
And lie all night long on his lily-white breast.
 
My love’s tall and handsome with every degree.
His parents despise him because he loves me.
Oh, let them despise him and say what they will
While I’ve breath in my body, I’ll love my man still.
 
Chorus
 
If I were a scholar and took up my pen
I’d write a long letter to my true love I’d send.
I’d tell my misfortunes, my sad grief and woe.
If I’d wings like a dove, to my true love I’d go.
 
Chorus
 
(this last verse written by Shannon Heaton):
If I were a painter, I’d see my love’s face
On a canvas in colors, warmed by the sun’s rays.
His features so pleasing, his eyes full of love,
Like an eagle I’d soar in the blue skies above.

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Giant of the Road
(words and music by Matt Heaton)
 
John wakes up before the sun on the 17th of May
His eyes go wide when he sees that brand new Schwinn Stingray
He skids through puddles, flies off curbs, his first taste of freedom
When dad put on those training wheels, John said he didn’t need ‘em.
 
Chorus:
 
In his mind he’s Eddy Mercx, in his mind he’s Lance
He can hear Phil Ligget say,“See how those pedals dance”
He still rides in a straight line, just like his daddy showed’
Everytime his wheels go round, he’s a giant of the road.
 
15, too young to drive a car, but not too young to date,
He loves the quiet of the night, when he comes home late.
Out of school into his first job, an income on two wheels,
Flying down the yellow line, he grins at how it feels.
 
Chorus
 
Now John’s got a proper job, the contract signed in ink,
He rides 12 miles to work each day, showers in the sink.
John’s daughter has a tricycle, three wheels of her own
He can’t help but smile when she tries to race him home
 
Chorus
 
In her mind she’s Marla Streb, flying down a hill,
She can’t leave the driveway yet, but she knows someday she will.
She tries to ride in a straight line like her daddy showed,
And everytime her wheels go round she’s a giant of the road.
 
 
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HEARTLAND (AKA Anniversary Song, for Dana and John on their 25th wedding anniversary), words and music by Shannon Heaton, 1/31/03
 
 
Winter winds hushed the day we met,
My eyes aflame with your radiant smile.
And the snow kissed our new romance.
As the short days of Winter
Grew lazy into Summertime,
We set forth, roads calling us on
 
Chorus: From the mining towns to the city streets
From East, to West, to Heartland;
The anchor of my heart
Is your smile, it still brings me round
You're my earthly joy, my anchor, my home.
 
 
Through December our love deepens.
Down frosty highways in midnight blue
Days and nightimes run easy by your side
While the rooftop sings with soft night rain.
As you dream beside me, as the stars dissolve   
Into daybreak, the road unfolds anew
 
Chorus
 
As the blustery day when we first met
Is marked again this sweet new year,
Sun-warm stillness this morning here at home
As we walk through seasons yet to come -
Through moody changes, through peaceful days
Oh what fortune to share this life with you.
 
Chorus

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HARVEST TIME, words and music by Matt & Shannon Heaton
 
Delia’s laugh splashed over me, Outside Valentine
With radiance pure and warmer than the high Nebraska sun
When day was done she came to me, And took my hand in hers
My heart leapt o’er the waves of grain, Into the night we flew 
Chorus:
golden fields the breeze blows warm, Sweet blessed summer day
And her face smiles all around  In the clear blue sky
The deepest sea of sun-warm wheat, Sweet blessed summer day.
Her sparkling eyes an island rare. Heavenly harvest time
 
Her voice is fresh as honeydew
A welcome summer rain
Like waves her dark hair frames the night
And pulls me like the tide
On her front porch we sailed away
The crickets sang til dawn
In this morning field I need no rest
I’ll live on love alone
 
Chorus
 
There’s work to do before day’s end
By noon the rays beat strong
Still all I feel is Delia’s touch
Her laughter and her smile
My heart years for her sweet caress
As shadows soak the ground
As the night air sways the stalks so high
I’ll return to her again
 
Chorus

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DEATH AND THE LADY, traditional words adapted by Shannon Heaton; melody by Shannon Heaton
 
As I walked out one day one day
The lark did sing and the lambs did play
As I walked out one day one day
The lark did sing and the lambs did play
Amid the brambles and the thorns
A man appeared that April morn
 
Chorus: He said You fair maid must come with me
You fair maid must come with me
You fair maid must come with me
Your time has come and you must away
 
I asked him from which land he came
I asked him if he’d been here long
I asked him from which land he came
Or what strange place he did come from
He gazed at me, eyes chilly gray
His clothing made of earthen clay
 
Chorus
 
I am a lady of renown
I am a lass of high degree
I am a lady of renown
I’ll take my leave from your company
He said I am Death, cannot you see
Rich and poor bow down to me
 
Please spare my life a little while
Please let my poor life carry on
Please spare my life a little while
To make amends, To right my wrongs
Oh no said he, your day is here
And you must come with me, my dear
 
Chorus
 
 
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LYRICS for the new and old Carols on FINE WINTER’s NIGHT:
 
Please, sing them… at home, in your own concerts, at church, on your own Christmas CDs! And please attribute your source: in many cases we have rearranged traditional hymns (either changed the meter, or the melody all together, or wrote new words), and in some cases we’ve written completely original songs.
 
We want you—and your audiences—to know that these are new spins on old favorites (and, hopefully, some brand new favorites). Enjoy!  --Matt & Shannon Heaton

It came upon a Midnight Clear | Fisherman's Lullbye | First Snowfall of December | Fine Winter's Night | Julius the Christmas Cat | The Wexford Carol | The Star Song | O Little Town of Bethlehem | Carol of the Birds
 
 
TRACK 1) It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Words: Dr. Edmund Hamilton Sears; Music: traditional English/Arthur Seymour Sullivan
 
While preparing for a Christmas sermon for his church in Wayland, Massachusetts, Dr. Edmund H. Sears (1810-1876) wrote this text. Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900)—of Gilbert and Sullivan fame—adapted the traditional English tune, “Noel,” to fit Sears’ words.
 
It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold.
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven’s all gracious king.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing
 
Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And every o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing
 
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long’
Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The tidings which they bring;
O hush the noise and cease your strife
and hear the angels sing!
 
For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

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TRACK 2. FISHERMAN’S LULLABY
Words and music: traditional spiritual, adapted by William Arms Fisher and Shannon Heaton
 
After mentioning our plans for this album to our friend Andrew Calhoun, he sent us a copy of “De Newborn Baby: Christmas Song of the Negro Fishermen.” It comes from a collection of spirituals published in 1926 by music historian William Arms Fisher (1861-1948). We adapted the words and turned it into a lullaby, hence the new name.
 
Baby born in Bethlehem
Oh, sing Gloria
Oh, sing Gloria
Glory be to the newborn baby
 
When cold winds blow, sing Gloria
Oh…
 
When trials rise, sing Gloria
Oh…
 
Through toil and strife, sing Gloria
Oh…
 
When hope is dim, sing Gloria
Oh…
 
While the world reels, sing Gloria
Oh…
 
For the baby born, sing Gloria
Oh…
 

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TRACK 4. FIRST SNOWFALL OF DECEMBER
Words and music: Matt Heaton, with waltz by Shannon Heaton
 
Inspired by a book of Victorian-era photographs of our hometown of Medford, Massachusetts—as well as by our friend Eric Merrill’s fine fiddle playing (heard here)—Matt set this song in one of the beautiful old houses on Governors Avenue, built on top of a massive rock formation.
 
 
The Day it grew Dark and the streetlamps came on
            The first snowfall of December
Tonight would be longest before breaks the dawn
            Through all the wintry weather
 
Young Sally she watched through the windowpane
            The first snowfall of December
Wondering if she’d see that young man again
Through all the wintry weather
 
Her house was lit for a party grand
The first snowfall of December
A night of dancing, impeccably planned
            Through all the wintry weather
 
As the guests arrived, the music flowed
            The first snowfall of December
Still Sally she stared at the street down below
            Through all the wintry weather
 
Sally spotted the boy she longed for to meet
            The first snowfall of December
At the door of  her house on Governor’s Street
            Through all the wintry weather
 
Paul took in his breath and he knocked on the door, just as he’d so often dreamt of doing before;
There stood Sally’s father so proper and stern, Paul felt his cheeks start to redden & burn
He looked at him up and he looked at him down, this poor young laborer from the town
But he opened the door and smiled just as wide, “Happy Christmas young man! Won’t you come on inside”
 
The yule was lit and the feast was laid
            The first snowfall of December
The couples twirled as the music played
            Through all the wintry weather
 
Sally and Paul danced into the night
The first snowfall of December
Till came the warmth of morning’s first light
            Through all the wintry weather
 
The toast was raised to “when good friends meet”
            The first snowfall of December
And the longest night passed ever so fleet.
            Through all the wintry weather
 
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TRACK 5. FINE WINTER’S NIGHT
Words and music: Shannon Heaton
 
For seven years, we performed A Very Siúcra Christmas with our good friend and wonderful singer, Beth Leachman. After a particularly memorable “VSC” show at the Chautauqua Hall in Boulder, Colorado, Shannon wrote this song.
 
Vs. 1: Deep and fierce winter chill brings us in
Inside to survive and flourish within
The warmth of the hearth, the stringing of cheery lights
Brightens the cold as the season begins.
 
Chorus:
All on a fine winter’s night
In the quiet of snow
The heavenly stars refresh the sky
And the wintry world below
The heavenly stars refresh the sky
And the wintry world below
 
Vs. 2: Nights of stillness illuminate the earth
Darkness surrounds before dawn’s coming birth
From evening’s first hour, the world wrapped in silence
Glorious streams bringing gladness and mirth
 
Chorus: All on a fine winter’s night…
 
Vs 3: The year’s longest eve brings a melancholy peace
The troubles of day melt with night’s slowing ease
The late winter hours bring hope for the coming dawn
Midnight wraps round like the lamb’s downy fleece
 
Chorus: All on a fine winter’s night…

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TRACK 6. JULIUS THE CHRISTMAS CAT
Words and music: Shannon Heaton
 
A few Decembers ago, we boarded a plane from Boston to Matt’s childhood home of Pittsburgh. As the plane took off, Shannon began thinking of all the people who had helped to put on our Christmas concerts that year. Inspired by the creative people who work behind-the-scenes to make events succeed, Shannon had written these lyrics by the time the drink cart came out.
 
A song awoke him from his nap
Julius, the barnyard cat.
To him the angels sang the news
Of the | babe to come on morning’s dew.
 
He shrugged the sleep from his furry head
And found a spot for the manger bed.
He trampled straw to a downy ring
A plush warm bed for the newborn king.
 
To clean His chilly, humble home
He cleared the mice and filled their holes.
With care he patched his drafty barn
To keep the noble couple warm.
 
BRIDGE: The beasts at rest in the stable lay
With matted coats and cool dark hay
For hours that night, from bed to bed
Julius groomed each furry head
 
With weary eyes he found the dove
And bowed his head with peaceful love:
This holy night there’ll be no chase
No harm to her or to her mate.
 
From the rafters she sent feathers warm
To Julius for his final chore.
And with feathers strewn in the baby’s nest
He woke each beast, then went to rest.
 
And when appeared that blessed babe
The creatures gently warmed that day.
In the shadows of the barn he napped, Sweet Julius, the Christmas cat

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TRACK 8. WEXFORD CAROL
Words and music: traditional Irish
 
While many of the older carols in our repertoire originate from England, “The Wexford Carol” actually traces back to Ireland, as far back as the 12th century. Matt learned his version from Fermanagh flute player/singer Cathal McConnell.
 
Good people all, this Christmas-time
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day;
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.
 
The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down,
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all,
Was but an humble ox's stall.
 
There were three wise men from afar,
Directed by a glorious star,
And on they wandered night and day,
Until they came where Jesus lay,
And when they came unto that place,
Where our beloved Messiah was,
They humbly cast them at his feet,
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.
 
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep,
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God's angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
"Prepare and go", the angles said.
To Bethlehem, be not afraid,
For there you'll find this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.
 
With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find,
And as God's angel had foretold,
They did our savior Christ behold.
Within a manger he was laid,
And by his side the virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.

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TRACK 9. STAR SONG
Words: Robert Herrick; Music: Shannon Heaton
 
English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) wrote the words for “Star Song: Carol to the King Sung at Whitehall,” and Shannon came up with this slip jig melody and chorus for it more than 300 years later.
 
 
Tell, oh thou clear and heavenly tongue
Where’s the babe but lately springing
Lies he, lies he in the lily banks
Lies he the lily among
 
Say if this new birth of ours
Sleeps in some ark of flowers
Spangled with dew, Oh thou can
Clear all doubts and manifest the the hours
 
Chor: Come and see him rest
Come and see him rest
A princely babe a ly-ing
On his mother’s breast
 
Tell bright star, if we shall
Week him in morning’s blushing cheek
Or find him in beds of spices through
To find a king to serve the meek
 
No thi ye need not press
But only come see him rest
Lies he, lies he, a princely babe
a-sleeping on his mother’s breast
 
chorus
 
He’s seen, he is seen
Why then a round, let us kiss the sweet holy ground
Let us all rejoice, that we have seen a King
Before conception crowned
 
Chor
 
Come, come then and let us bring
Unto our pretty Twelfth tide King
Gifts to serve a newborn, and when night comes
We’ll give him wassailing.
 
 
 
Original words by Herrick:
KING 1: tell us, thou clear and heavenly tongue,
Where is the Baby by lately sprung?
Lies He the lily-banks among?
 
KING 2: Or say, if this new birth of ours
Sleeps, laid within some ark of flowers,
Spangled with dew-light; thou canst clear
All doubts, and manifest the where.
 
KING 3: Declare to us, bright star, if we shall week
Him in the morning’s blushing cheek,
Or search the beds of spices through,
To find Him out?
STAR: No, this ye need not do;
But only come, and see Him rest
A princely Babe, in’s mother’s breast
 
CHORUS: He’s seen, He’s seen, why then a round,
Let’s kiss the sweet and holy ground;
And all rejoice, that we have found
A King, before conception crowned.
 
3 KINGS: Come then, come then, and let us bring
unto hour pretty Twefth-tide King;
each one his several offering
 
CHORUS: And when night comes, we’ll give him wassailing;
And that His treble honors may be seen,
We’ll choose Him King, and make His mother Queen.

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TRACK 11. O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Words: Phillips Brooks (rearranged by Shannon Heaton); Music: Lewis H. Redner
 
In 1865, Philadelphia-based priest Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) assisted with the Christmas Eve midnight service in Bethlehem (not the one in Pennsylvania!). Three years later, he wrote the words for “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Lewis Redner, the organist at Holy Trinity Church, added the music on Christmas Eve 1868, and the carol was first sung the next day. We’ve rearranged Brooks’ words slightly and turned this into a Christmas lullaby
 
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
 
For Christ is born of Mary; and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love;
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
 
Where children safe and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
 
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

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TRACK 12. CAROL OF THE BIRDS
Words and music: traditional Catalonian, with slow reel by Shannon Heaton
 
This stunning carol made its first appearance in the U.S. as an unaccompanied cello solo encore, played in a recital at the Kennedy White House in 1961 by Catalonian master Pablo Casals. Shannon added the tune at the end and calls it “The Winter’s Nest.”
 
 
Upon this holy night
When God's great star appears
And floods the earth with brightness
 
Birds' voices rise in song
Warbling all night long
Express their glad heart's lightness
 
The Nightingale is first
 
To bring his song of cheer
And tell us of His gladness
 
Jesus, our Lord, is born
To free us from all sin
And banish ev'ry sadness!
 
The answ'ring Sparrow cries
"God comes to earth this day,
Amid the angels flying."
 
Trilling in the sweetest tones
The Finch his Lord now owns
"To Him be all thanksgiving."
 
The Partridge adds his note:
"To Bethlehem I'll fly
Where in the stall He's lying.
 
There, near the manger blest,
I'll build myself a nest,
And sing my love undying
 
 
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