Open you the East Door and let the New Year in

And so we come to the end of 2013. In 2011, Liszt had the last word on my blog; in 2012 it was Debussy.

This year it is Britten. If you are reading this in private, or have some headphones, do click on ‘play’ on the video above as you read …

The words of the New Year Carol were included in an anthology of poems for children, Tom Tiddler’s Ground, edited by Walter de la Mare, in 1931. Britten set the words to music in 1934 as part of  his Op 7 songs, Friday Afternoons. The 1967 Decca recording features Britten conducting the choir of Downside School, Purley, available to download here.

Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy New Year.
Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe;
Open you the West Door and turn the Old Year go.
Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

 Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin;
Open you the East Door and let the New Year in.
Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Also known as the ‘Levy-dew’, the rhyme refers to an old custom of sprinkling people, and the doors of houses, with water freshly drawn from a well at New Year. But whatever the origin of the words, there is something comforting in the imagery of opening the West Door to turn the Old Year out, and opening the East Door to let the New Year in.

Thank you, dear Reader, for your company this year, as we explored Death in Venice, taking in music related to Wagner and Verdi, Britten, Stravinsky, Lutoslawski and Alkan. My best wishes to you, wherever you are, as you open the West Door to let 2013 go – and open the East Door to let 2014 in.

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