Day 11: “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” 16th-century French Carol
The first year I lived in Boston, I noticed the custom of people placing a single candle in each window of their homes during the holidays. (Battery-operated, thus not a fire hazard, I was relieved to learn.) I always thought it was pretty, and every year I kept thinking I should get some, but every year I would get caught up in holiday craziness and forget.
This year, I finally changed that! McDoc and I bought a cute little 80-year-old brick home over the summer, and its windows were simply crying out for candles once the days got short, so I got ahead of the curve for once and ordered them nice and early.
And it reminds me of the French carol, “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” — or “Un Flambeau” in the original French. I can’t remember when I first heard it, but I know I loved it right away, because my mother’s name is Jeanette, and I’ve been a francophile ever since I heard the story of how my parents met and courted while working at the American Embassy in Paris. It seems the Jeanette and Isabella of the song are a pair of candle-toting milkmaids, summoned to run to see the newborn in the stable, but quietly — let the poor kid sleep!
Here’s a lovely French version by the the a capella rockstars of Chanticleer:
And here’s a charming Gypsy Jazz-sounding version:
And one more, by the Canadian Brass, because for some reason a brass quintet is quintessentially Christmasy!
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