Benjamin Britten, one of the most significant English composers of the twentieth century.
It is one of my claims to fame that I did manage to see Jeff Buckley – just the once, at Glastonbury in 1995.
His version of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ originally appeared on what was Buckley’s only complete studio album, 1994’s Grace. The version is post below comes from Meltdown in 1995, which was his last performance in the UK, and he died, tragically, in 1997.
Jeff Beck has also covered the track – which you can hear him perform in 2010 in Sweden:
According to Wiki:
‘Corpus Christi Carol is a Middle or Early Modern English hymn (or carol), first found by an apprentice grocer named Richard Hill in a manuscript written around 1504. The original writer of the carol remains anonymous. The earliest surviving record of the piece preserves only the lyrics and is untitled. It has survived in altered form in the folk tradition as the Christmas carol Down In Yon Forest.
The structure of the carol is six stanzas, each with rhyming couplets. The tense changes in the fourth stanza from past to present continuous.
One hypothesis about the meaning of the carol is that it is concerned with the legend of the Holy Grail. In Arthurian traditions of the Grail story, the Fisher King is the knight who is the Grail’s protector, and whose legs are perpetually wounded. When he is wounded his kingdom suffers and becomes a wasteland. This would explain the reference to “an orchard brown”.
One recent interpretation is that it was composed about the execution of Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII, whose badge was a falcon.
Benjamin Britten used it in the fifth variation of A Boy was Born (Choral Variations For Mixed Voices), Opus 3, in 1933.
Singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley included his interpretation of Britten’s work on his debut 1994 album, Grace. About his version Buckley said, “The ‘Carol’ is a fairytale about a falcon who takes the beloved of the singer to an orchard. The singer goes looking for her and arrives at a chamber where his beloved lies next to a bleeding knight and a tomb with Christ’s body in it.”
English guitarist Jeff Beck performs his interpretation on his 2010 album, Emotion & Commotion. In the album liner notes, Beck states that Jeff Buckley inspired his cover of this piece: “When I heard Jeff Buckley’s album, the simplicity and the beauty of the way he sounded amazed me.”