Tune of the Day: Ding Dong Merrily on High
This carol is a good example of a carol in the original sense of the word (i.e. a secular dance tune) evolving into a carol as it is understood today (i.e. a song for Christmas). The tune first appeared as a secular dance tune known as “Le branle de l'Officiel” (“The Officer's Brawl”) in Orchésographie, a late sixteenth-century study of French Renaissance social dance by Thoinot Arbeau. This manual provided critical information on social ballroom behavior and on the interaction of musicians and dancers. According to this manual, the “Branle de l'Officiel” was to be danced by “lackeys and serving wenches, and sometimes by young men and maids of gentle birth masquerading as peasants and shepherds”.
The song is particularly noted for the line “Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!”, where the sung vowel sound “o” of “Gloria” is fluidly sustained through a lengthy rising and falling melismatic melodic sequence.