The Gloucestershire Wassail

The Gloucestershire Wassail (“Wassail, Wassail! All Over the Town”) is one of many traditional wassails (festive songs, carols) associated with the centuries-old tradition of wassailing. In the West of England from where this particular song comes, groups of people would go door to door, singing and offering a drink of mulled cider (wassail) from a large, decorated bowl (the wassail bowl) in exchange for other drinks, food, and gifts.

The custom of sharing the wassail bowl is supposedly of Saxon origin, a drinking ritual dating to the Middle Ages and derived from one of the observances of the Feast of Yule. Today it is associated with Christmas-tide, the twelve days from December 25 through January 5. The word “wassail” itself comes from an Anglo-Saxon greeting (Middle English “waes hael”) meaning “be thou hale” or “be in good health.”

This arrangement of a sprightly West-English traditional song features the voices of the brass quintet in various combinations, keys, and harmonizations, echoing the strains of wassail-singers across time and place.

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba) — $12.99

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