Saturday, December 16, 2017

Traditional Huron music from 1642

The oldest known Canadian Christmas carol, 'The Huron Carol' from 1642 was written by Jean de Brébeuf, a French Jesuit missionary who figured out that converting the locals to Christianity was not going to work unless he mastered Wendat, the Huron language, which took up most of his time. Long fascinating story short, he lived with them his entire life and ended being burned alive with them.

Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in Wendat, based on a traditional French folk song called 'Une Jeune Pucelle' ('A Young Maid') from 1557, which was based on other European songs in an era when you could borrow a tune without repercussions. Wendat is considered a dormant language, as Hurons speak French and English, but since 1970s it has been going through a complicated but serious revival thanks to organisations in both Canada and the United States.

The Huron Carol is a song passed on in the oral tradition, and tells us that 'Jesus is born'. Enjoy this trilingual version that starts in Wendat, then French, then English, which makes it as Canadian as could be. It is sung by Heather Dale of Toronto, an award-winning Canadian singer and multi-instrumentatlist who insists on remaining an independent artist, refusing to sign with any major label.