Old Bridge Music

Christmas Lights

1 The Holly and the Ivy
2 Three Ships from Sussex
3 God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen
4 Campana Sobre Campana
5 O Come all ye Faithful
6 Past Three O'Clock
7 O Little Town of Bethlehem
8 The Coventry Carol
9 Away in a Manger
10 Il est né le Divin Enfant
11 We Three Kings
12 Once in Royal David's City
13 Do'n Oíche Úd i mBeithil (To That Night in Bethlehem)
14 The First Tree in the Greenwood
15 Infant Holy
16 Ding Dong Merrily on High

Christmas Lights


Christmas Lights is a rich and colourful seasonal cornucopia of beautifully-arranged traditional Christmas carols:

“A delightful Christmas-themed offering… from this famed musical partnership: a satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites… joyful, gorgeous and uplifting.”


Click here for Extended Liner Notes.

SKU: OBMCD20 Categories: ,


Christmas Lights is a rich and colourful seasonal cornucopia of beautifully-arranged traditional Christmas carols:

“A delightful Christmas-themed offering… from this famed musical partnership: a satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites… joyful, gorgeous and uplifting.”

Click to read Máire and Chris’ biography.

Chris Newman guitars, bass, mandolins, bouzouki and keyboards; Máire Ní Chathasaigh Irish harp; Nollaig Casey violins; Maggie Boyle flute; Roy Whyke drums


Extended Liner Notes

The story behind the album.
In December 2012 we were wondering what to do about Christmas cards as the cost of postage in the UK had recently increased by an enormous amount. We had the bright idea of sending a musical Christmas greeting, instead of a physical card, to everyone on our database so spent the evening of December 13th in the studio recording an extremely light-hearted version of Ding Dong Merrily on High. The following day we emailed a hyperlink to everyone we knew, and by December 26th, when we removed the track from the website, it had been downloaded over 6000 times. We received lots of comments along the lines of “When’s the rest of the album coming out?”

Well, this is it, and we hope you enjoy it!

1) The Holly and the Ivy 3:09
The original tune (the main theme here) was collected by Cecil Sharp from a Mrs Mary Clayton of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, and published by him in 1911. It has a wonderfully joyful feel, but is very short, so Chris wrote the second part to make it into a longer celebratory piece.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass
 Máire: harp
 Roy: drums

2) Three Ships from Sussex 3:14
The English traditional carol ‘I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In’ provides the melody for the first part of this piece. It has a great tune but is very short, so we pressed the second half of ‘The Sussex Carol’ (having changed it a bit!) into service as a second part.

Ralph Vaughan Williams collected ‘The Sussex Carol’ in 1904 from a Mrs. Verall of Monk’s Gate, near Horsham, Sussex. However, the words were written by Luke Wadding (1628-1692), Catholic Bishop of Ferns, Co. Wexford, and appear under the title Another short caroll for Christmas Day in his Smale Garland of Pious and Godly Songs, published in Ghent in 1684.

Chris: guitars, mandolins, keyboard & bass Máire: harp Maggie: flute Nollaig: violin Roy: drums

3) God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen 3:01
This tune – found in Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651) under the title ‘Chestnut’ (or ‘Doves Figary’) – appears to have become associated with the words commonly sung to it today only in the nineteenth century, which would explain why it seems a bit at odds with them in mood. Its dark undertow inspired our slightly ‘gothic’ approach to the arrangement.

Chris: guitar Máire: harp

4) Campana Sobre Campana (Bells upon Bells) 3:25
This is a really appealing traditional Andalusian carol, which we heard it on a December trip to Spain a few years ago.

Chris: guitars, mandolins, keyboard & bass Máire: harp Roy: drums

5) O Come all ye Faithful 2:32
A c. 1740 manuscript compiled by John Francis Wade (1711 – 1786), an English Catholic scribe and teacher of plainchant associated with the English College in Douai, is the earliest source for the Latin hymn ‘Adeste Fideles’. The words were probably written by Wade, but the tune is likely to be older. There is a tradition that the hymn was sung for the first time in the Dominican Priory in Channel Row, Dublin, soon after the Jacobite rising of 1745. It was translated into English in the nineteenth century, and as ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ became one of England’s most popular carols. However, the original Latin hymn is by the far the most widely-sung version in Ireland. It is usually belted out at high volume, so Chris thought he’d like to give it a more reflective, out-of-tempo treatment.

Chris: guitars

6) Past Three O’Clock 2:33
The tune known today is an adaptation and elaboration by William Chappell (in his Popular Music of the Olden Time 1853-1859) of the call of the London waits published in John Playford’s English Dancing Master (1665). In the mediaeval period, the London waits patrolled the town every night, kept watch and sounded the hours. By the seventeenth century the waits were no longer watchmen, but at Christmas they still processed at night-time in the old way, while singing carols.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass

7) O Little Town of Bethlehem 3:28
This traditional English tune (a version of ‘The Ploughman’s Dream’) was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1903 from a man named Garman who lived in Forest Green, near Ockley in Surrrey. The words of the carol (which became associated with this tune only at a much later date, and only in Britain and Ireland) were written by Phillips Brooks, rector of Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia, in 1865.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Máire: harp Maggie: flute Roy: drums

8) The Coventry Carol 3:39
What has come to be known as ‘The Coventry Carol’ dates from the 16th century at the latest and is one of two surviving songs from the mediaeval Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors (first mentioned in 1392), part of the cycle of mystery plays annually performed in Coventry on the feast of Corpus Christi. Máire starts the track with a setting based on that to be found in a 19th century copy of the original 1591 manuscript (which had been destroyed in a fire in 1879). The modern interpretation by Chris that follows retains the plaintive feel of this beautiful tune.

Chris: guitars & bass Máire: harp Maggie: flute

9) Away in a Manger 3:38
An American carol. The tune was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick and first published in Cincinnati in 1895.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Máire: harp Maggie: flutes

10) Il est né le Divin Enfant 3:07
A lovely French carol, probably dating from the eighteenth century. It was the first French song Máire ever learned, when she was twelve years old.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Máire: harp Nollaig: violins

11) We Three Kings 3:25
Another American carol, composed by John Henry Hopkins (1820-1891), rector of Christ’s Church, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and published in his Carols, Hymns and Songs, 1865.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Nollaig: violin Maggie: flute Roy: drums

12) Once in Royal David’s City 2:32
The words to this famous hymn were written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, born in Dublin in 1818. The tune appears to have been composed by Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876).

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Máire: harp Roy: drums

13) Do’n Oíche Úd i mBeithil (To That Night in Bethlehem) 2:50
A very popular Irish Christmas carol, first published in 1955 in Volume 2 of An Chóisir Cheoil and probably composed by its compiler, Seán Óg Ó Tuama. Seán Óg does not indicate its provenance. However, his late sister-in-law Róisín Ní Shé informed Máire that he was definitely responsible for its composition, together with that of ‘Deus Meus’ (often erroneously thought to be medieval) and a number of other songs to be found in the series.

Máire: harp Nollaig: violin

14) The First Tree in the Greenwood or The St Day Carol 3:08
A traditional Cornish carol, collected by the Revd. G. H. Doble in St. Day, near Redruth, Cornwall, in the early twentieth century.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass

15) Infant Holy, Infant Lowly 3:20
A traditional Polish carol.

Chris: guitars, keyboard & bass Máire: harp Maggie: flute

16) Ding Dong Merrily on High 3:35
The Orchésographie of Thoinot Arbeau or Jehan Tabourot is the source for this wonderful sixteenth-century French dance tune. G. R. Woodward (1848-1934) decided that it would make a good basis for a carol and accordingly provided it with the faux-‘Olde-Englishe’ text sung to it today.

Chris: guitars, mandolins & bass Máire: harp Roy: drums

Many thanks to Nollaig, Maggie and Roy; Libby Stuart; Kevin Martin; Maeve Gebruers and Nicholas Carolan of the Irish Traditional Music Archive; and of course our families and friends for putting up with our abstraction during the development and recording of this project!



1. The Holly and the Ivy; 2. Three Ships from Sussex; 3. God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen; 4. Campana Sobre Campana (Bells upon Bells); 5. O Come all ye Faithful; 6. Past Three O’Clock; 7. O Little Town of Bethlehem; 8. The Coventry Carol; 9. Away in a Manger; 10. Il est né le Divin Enfant; 11. We Three Kings; 12. Once in Royal David’s City; 13. Do’n Oíche Úd i mBeithil (To That Night in Bethlehem); 14. The First Tree in the Greenwood; 15. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly; 16. Ding Dong Merrily on High

Review Extracts

“Hot off the press and before you can say ‘roast chestnuts’, here’s a delightful Christmas-themed offering which fair makes me wonder why this famed musical partnership has taken so long to get round to making a seasonal record (after all, they’ve served up just about every other type of musical feast for us during their illustrious individual and joint careers thus far).

Together Máire and Chris provide a satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites. But I’d stress that what you don’t get here is a stocking-full of folked-up, jazzed-up and rocked-up-by-numbers carols: instead Máire and Chris deliver a pleasing, rounded sequence of 16 items that balance glittering, quietly virtuoso treatments of trusty and well-trodden carol repertoire with assured and equally respectful versions of a handful of less-often-heard seasonal pieces.

Stylistically, the majority of the carols are taken relatively straight, generally in thoughtfully-arranged acoustic-folk (sometimes with a backbeat, often with a swing) mode, springing no horse-frightening gestures and throwing no curveballs, but instead always entertainingly presented and conceived. Joyful musicianship is guaranteed and while the performances are affectionate and mindful of tradition, there’s no trace of sentimentality and what might sometimes be seen as hoary frosty old tunes emerge from the murk of ages sparkling as baubles on the Christmas tree. Settings are both sensibly paced and economical, with no carol outstaying its welcome (the majority of tracks lasting less than 3½ minutes), plenty of musical interest being packed into each arrangement.

Máire and Chris have both long been known for their unique approach to the music they play, their key combination of confident playfulness and keen adventure. Máire is quite simply one of the finest exponents of the Irish harp, distinctively stylish at all times and in all musical idioms, while Chris is regarded not only as a guitarist’s guitarist, at home in every musical discipline, but also as a consummate producer and arranger (he brings mandolins, bass and keyboard skills to the mix too). Both Máire and Chris share the valuable gift (which cannot be taken as a given amongst the most brilliant musicians) of making the fruits of their technique entirely accessible to the casual or less specialist music-lover as well as to the muso-aficionado, indeed to all levels of listener in between.

Finally I need to mention that the duo’s own instrumental expertise is lovingly augmented here by that of Nollaig Casey (violins) and/or Maggie Boyle (flute), while several of the tracks also enjoy rhythmic embellishment from Roy Whyke, whose drum kit work proves a model of genial restraint and grace while keeping entirely in the playful spirit of Máire and Chris’s own music-making. On each play, additional subtleties and details are revealed within, and I find myself cherrypicking (or should that be holly-picking?) different individual tracks for honourable mention, from the sprightly waltz of The First Tree In The Greenwood to the stately Coventry Carol, the delicate lyricality of Infant Holy to the gorgeous string backing of Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant to the relaxed We Three Kings; the enchantingly folky Do’n Oíche Úd i mBeithil to the rumbustious multi-mannered finale Ding Dong Merrily On High. This uplifting collection will I’m sure quite literally bring comfort and joy, and I feel sure ‘yule’ thoroughly enjoy this disc!”

David Kidman THE LIVING TRADITION (Scotland)


“Here we go again with the seasonal Christmassy CD rush – and whereas the commercial scene is urging you to part with your hard-earned money for whatever festive tat they can offload, be very thankful for the wonderful world of folk, which promises gifts of the highest quality.

Chris, who fRoots praised as: “One of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists”, and Máire (“The doyenne of Irish harpers”, according to Scotland On Sunday) invite Máire’s sister, the impressive fiddler Nollaig Casey, flautist Maggie Boyle and drummer Roy Whyle to Old Bridge Music to record the clutch of Christmas carols; and they substitute the voices and verses for dizzying instrumental runs and really masterful playing.Chris and Máire interpret some well-known carols with not-so-well-known arrangements, such as ‘The Holly And The Ivy’, ‘Three Ships From Sussex’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, while Maggie’s flute is positively dancing in ‘Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem’ and Nollaig contributes some beautiful fiddle as well. However, they choose several unfamiliar and rarely-heard peices, such as the Spanish carol ‘Campana Sobre Campana’, ‘Past Three O’Clock’, ‘Il est Né Le Divin Enfant’, the entrancing and delicate Irish Gaelic carol ‘Do’n Oíche Úd I mBeithil’ (To That Night In Bethlehem) and ‘Infant Holy’. The album ends with the wildly celebratory ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High’; this carol borrows from the smouldering and sexy French dance tune ‘Bransle De L’Officiel’, and Chris and Maire have an absolute ball playing it. This is one Christmas present to be treasured!”

Mick Tems
* * * * FOLK WALES