Peace on earth goodwill to man
Thus the ancient carol ran
Sung in sweet angelic strain
Far on Judah’s wintry plain
Two thousand years ago
“Peace, Goodwill we sing today”
In a joyous roundelay
In New Zealand bright and gay
Mid the summer’s glow.
These words by the Wellington poet J L Kelly were set to music by Walter Impett as the New Zealand Christmas carol and were published in the Christmas Supplement to the New Zealand Mail in 1903. It is one of a small number of carols written and published by New Zealand musicians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Interestingly, others were also published in formats which means that they are now very hard to find. Arthur Barth‘s Our New Zealand Christmas song (1882) was produced in the form of a Christmas card, while Alice Forrester‘s 1911 carol was produced on a postcard. Robert Parker‘s Like silver lamps in a distant shrine ; a Christmas carol for SATB was published by Reichardt’s as a song sheet in 1880 and is still in the collection of St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington.
The English tradition of pantomine was also produced in early Wellington with a New Zealand twist. A copy from the National Library of New Zealand of an advertising handout for the local production at the Academy of Music, Wellington in 1879 makes us wish a copy of the text and music were still in existence.
To paraphrase Kelly, peace and goodwill to everyone and we look forward to exploring some more of New Zealand’s music history next year.