Song and Dance
It is one of life’s ironies that so much of what we focus on every day does not really involve what we need for our emotional health, with the result that loneliness is fast becoming one of the scourges of 21st century western living. Many of the key feelings which contribute to moments of happiness come from being part of something, of a team or a community: being sociable, if not during every minute or with every person, but often enough. To be able to engage in conversation, to relax, to sing together or listen to music, to recite stories, to dance or to enjoy watching others dance.
If New Year is about dancing and parties, then Christmas is about songs and carols. Carols were first noted in the 4th century AD, but the first ones appear in English in about 1426 when a country chaplain, John Awdlay, listed twenty five “caroles of Cristemas” which were likely sung in the open air.
Christmas services have a reassuring ritual, we all sang carols at school and there is a cadence and rhythm to the language as well as the music. It is a well-trodden formula. During such services we are asked to pause for a few minutes, to think and pray for others and that is exactly what we did yesterday when we held our now traditional “Songs for Peace” event here at the Castle.
We hold this event in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). These extraordinary doctors, nurses and associated volunteers go in to help, in countries torn by strife or natural disaster when most people are in fear and running in the other direction. It is a way of sharing what they do as they are entirely dependent on donations to fund their endeavours.
I have bought some Christmas carol CDs to play in between times, when the choirs who are joining us at such events for much of the next three weeks are taking a break. I love their familiarity and the memories they conjure. My sisters and I will always smile and glance at each other as the descant verses come round – our mother, who had a lovely voice, always launched into every descant with great enthusiasm to our great embarrassment as children. She particularly loved the carol “In the bleak Midwinter” so we are sang it yesterday and, as ever, I thought of her. Since it was very much December weather as well, it was particularly apposite.
Later on during the Christmas period, some of our entertainment at home in the evenings is again around song and dance. One of the funniest evenings we have had here was when we rented a karaoke machine which we set up in the Library for use after supper. It took a little bit of encouragement to get going but it soon began to come into its own. Some of the joint efforts were so hilarious I remember seeing one girlfriend laughing so hard, she had tears streaming down her face. I can also clearly see my mother-in-law sitting on one of the large red sofas watching it all with some bemusement whilst my son has never recovered from the embarrassment of watching his father sing. Singing together, laughing and sometimes dancing is what it is all about.
“Modern dancing” seems to me to be often a solo occupation and Jane Austen’s heroines would have had a very tricky time meeting and exchanging words with any prospective beau. I am not sure we will quite revert to dancing of the 18th century ilk, but I do enjoy Scottish Reeling and feel rather like my mother lining people up to dance together. It is elegant and everyone takes part. You also meet everyone in the room. The key is to have a few people who know what they are doing…
So many events here at Highclere incorporate music and dancing from singing carols this year around a tree, from Heroes at Highclere in 2018 looking forwards to VE Day (May 8th 2020). Let’s dance and sing as 75 years ago our parents, grandparents and great grandparents danced and sang. Perhaps we should all do so, from all “sides” and then take time out to listen to talks in the speakers tent, enjoy the spectacles we create and reflect with a little sobriety as well on what they hoped to create for the future.
Greetings from USA Lady Carnarvon,
I’m having such a wonderful time following your ‘countdown to Christmas’ at Highclere as well as all the fun activities. Always a crowd pleaser! Merry Christmas and many more blessings to you all.
Beautiful traditions and it is a joy to hear your stories. Merry Christmas from Kentucky.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My daughter and I very much enjoyed our visit yesterday and felt much the same feelings as you describe. The choir was lovely and sang throughout the day, indoors, outdoors, through literally rain and winds. Your photo of them huddled in shelter speaks to their love of what they do. Also impressive was the talk by the doctor of MSF. God bless them.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful home, and thank you to all of your cheerful and friendly staff. The highlight of our vacation in the UK.
Thank you. I am so glad you both enjoyed your visit.
Bonjour from France Lady Carnarvon,
Highclere is singing for the unsung heroes of MSF – how wonderful!
How apt! Thank you
Bless you for this writing. Transporting us to the past and linking it to the present. It is good to slow down during this hectic season!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the very best in 2020!
From Dawsonville, Georgia USA
It is, the world is far too frenetic at times.
It must be wonderful to be part of something special like you are. When you get older and are alone most of the time you truly don’t have much to celebrate. I envy your huge amount of family and friends and the enjoyment you get from the holidays. When you have to struggle to even keep your house warm you don’t have much time for Christmas spirit anymore. Anyway Merry Christmas to you my dear It must be wonderful to be part of something special like you are. . I do so look forward to your blogs. They are a joy to read
I am so sorry to hear that. Are there elder groups near you? Or perhaps a choir you might be able to join? Maybe there are other readers of my blog near you who might want to get in touch.
I live in southern Oregon a very rural community. Anyway you have a joyous Christmas
What a lovely post. Human beings are made for connection and long to be loved and understood. So, it is fitting to honor Christmas traditions that bring us together while creating new ones.
Honoring the unsung heroes and Scottish reeling are such beautiful and elegant Christmas traditions. As a Scottish Country dancer, I must agree with you about reeling. It is so much fun! The photos are so beautiful.
Happy Christmas to you and yours! I’m still enjoying your Highclere book and recipes. Your recipes are a new part of my Christmas celebration!
The Woodlands, Texas
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I was absolutely delighted to read of the so many varied and enjoyable (& occasionally hilarious) ways that you privately and publicly celebrate Christmas and the season at Highclere.
You will need until the VE Day anniversary to recover from the many festivities and events.
Also, thank you because your blog has filled me with good cheer and I am typing this missive with a jolly smile across my face.
Christmas Day is still over 2 weeks away but, having read your blog, it just seems right to take this opportunity to wish you, your family and all ‘bloggers’ to this site – who are all now part of my “Monday family” – seasons greetings, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
It also would be remiss if I didn’t add that I too am in awe of the work that is done by the members of Medecins Sans Frontières. Phenomenal.
Finally, I refer to your sentiments of the importance of community and the need for a sense or feeling of belonging. I wholeheartedly agree and it is something that we should never forget. A number of years ago the winner of the NYC Tropfest was a short (three and a half minutes)Australian-made film called “Mankind is No Island.” It concerns the homeless of Sydney and New York and our (the general public’s) attitude and behaviour towards these poor souls. It is extremely moving and worth watching – especially at this time of year.
Hopefully, this link will be of assistance to ‘fellow bloggers’:
Thank you – I love the idea of a ‘Monday Family’
Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mr. Sewell! I always enjoy reading your thoughtful and amusing replies to Lady Carnarvon.
I just watched that video. Thank you.
Hello from Florida,
I always look for a post from Jeffery! I enjoy reading your comments as it seems you are reading my mind! I also wish a Merry Christmas to our Highclere Monday Family!
Linda ‘Sue” Smith
I love this “Monday Family” !
Thank you .. it is a Monday family. Sounds like a blog
Thank you for your welcome Christmas message Jeffery. Thoughtful as always.
Merry Christmas to you and your family from ours.
Thank you all for those very kind comments. There clearly is a generosity of spirit amongst you all and I feel very privileged to be part of this conversation every week.
I’m very grateful for Lady Carnarvon running this blog and “kick-starting” the conversation every Monday with an interesting and entertaining comment and blog that is always so inspiring. Reading each of your contributions makes it feel like being part of a family; our “Monday family”. Best wishes to all.
THANK VERY MUCH JEFFERY , HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM BRAZIL
At the end of this week I’ll be retiring. Your post this morning has me thinking of one more option – of the many before me – learn to dance and join a choir!! Thank you for another wonderful story from your home to ours. (ps – what do the words say and translate to, written above the front door of Highclere Castle?)
Singing in a choir has proven benefits to our well being so I think it is an excellent idea!
Thank you for the story of what has and is happening at Highclere during the Christmas season. I feel “ transported” into your world.
Merry Christmas from a grateful follower.
Thank you – it is a busy time, but a fun one.
I will be remembering our visit to Highclere Castle when our choir sings “In the bleak midwinter” tonight at our retirement community concert, probably with tears in my eyes. Then into the high-ceiling lobby for conversation, holiday hugs, good “cheer,” and carol singing!
Thank you for supporting Doctors without Borders, a truly noble group.
Happy holidays during this holy season.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
How much fun to read of the traditions and activities at Highclere this time of year. It sounds as if your mother was a people person who loved to include everyone around her in the festivities. My mother was like that. She was in the church choir. She loved Christmas and singing her favorite carols with her family and friends. We will celebrate our first Christmas this year without her.
Sweet memories keep our loved ones near.
Thank you for sharing the wonderful Christmas season at Highclere.
Christmas is always extra poignant without the ones we love and miss.
Our family experienced the circle of life all in the same week. Mother died December 2 and our first grandchild, James Arthur Watkins, was born December 5th. It was a roller coaster of emotions to say the least.
I am sorry for your loss. Hopefully little James will bring a smile to your face.
It sounds like the castle truly comes to life during the Christmas Season. How wonderful that you share with others during this time of joy and frivolity. My granddaughter hopes to be a part of Doctors Without Borders very soon.
Thank you for letting those of us who live too far be a part of your Christmas celebrations and traditions.
Happy Christmas from Savannah, Georgia.
Thank you. Your granddaughter will have an extraordinary experience working with them I am sure.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
My mother’s favorite carol was “Oh Holy Night”, and memories came flooding back on reading your blog this morning! May you and your family enjoy the blessings of the season, and a very Happy New Year!
Thank you. What a beautiful carol.
Oh to strap on our gillies and dance in your saloon, The Gay Gordons, Strip The Willow, The Dashing White Sergeant . . . you do have such fun!
We always start the evening with The Dashing White Sergeant – great fun!
Merry Christmas to all at Highclere!
And to you
Watch BBC 4 at 9pm tonight.
Thank you – I shall try to. I do enjoy Lucy Worsley’s programmes.
What a great cause you picked to donate to. I have a close friend, an orthopedic surgeon, who has made a career of MSF and so I thank you so much for your support of this important cause.
Social isolation is indeed becoming a huge issue and alongside that depression and anxiety. Interacting with people is hard for so many. Your castle seems to draw in people who want to be in touch with that older way of life. So again kudos for opening your doors and allowing people to feel a spirit of the season descend upon them.
You are very kind.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone at Highclere Castle!
Thank you – and to you.
What a wonderful season. I am sure everyone including your family and your Highclere family have a wonderful time. (even though there is a lot of work, too)
Merry & happy Christmas!
What a wonderful “letter from home” to the Monday Family! Following your various events and activities throughout the end of the year is such a joy. Thank you for supporting Doctors without Borders. I’ve known people whose lives were changed after their involvement.
There is good in the world and people are recognizing the necessity of connection for good health. Your contribution is much appreciated.
Best news to close out 2019: my son is marrying a wonderful woman. I’m thrilled and prepared to celebrate a joyous event.
Thank you for continuing your Monday letter and creating the Monday Family.
Best wishes for a thoroughly enjoyable holiday season.
Congratulations – what happy news!
Maravilloso Lady Carnarvon!Desde Buenos Aires Merry Christmas!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
When I read this, a big smile took over my face. Oh yes, singing, dancing and laughing really brings people together, and bring good spirits in everyone involved. We should do it at least once a week. My parents used to dance a lot when we grew up, it was always great fun to watch them so open, free and happy.
It must be awesome to be able to, and want to, bring so many people into your life and amazing castle. You`re an interesting and wonderful Lady. It was a great pleasure to meet you in Oslo, Norway, and listen to your interesting stories about Highclere`s history. I look forward to read your book, and maybe be brave enough to try some of your recipes.
Thank you very much for sharing.
Best regards from Siri
Thank you. I really enjoyed my visit to Oslo.
Hermosas palabras … les deseo unas hermosas fiestas llenas de paz y prosperidad desde Argentina.
I so enjoy reading your blog. My husband and I are headed to England on Thursday from Colorado and are very excited to attend your event on the evening of the 17th.
See you then !!
Hello Lady Carnarvon and our Monday Family,
My dream is to one day be in England for Christmas. In my mind I would expect Charles Dickens to greet me on the London Streets!
I really enjoyed seeing the decorations at Highclere. How wonderful! I love Christmas. All of the decorations are wonderful. I have no decorations up this year. We are still refurbishing our old house. Rather than tinsel we have plaster dust everywhere. I’m hoping it will be worth it when it is finished.
Thank you so much for sharing some of the history of traditions. It is very interesting. We watched the series about Queen Victoria. It included a scene about Prince Albert displaying a great many Christmas trees for their children. I am not certain how accurate the series is, but I really enjoyed it.
God Bless you and all of your ‘Elves’!
Linda Sue Smith
Loved reading about all the goings ons – really puts me in the Christmas Spirit. I am enjoying your Christmas at Highclere book – Love how you support Doctors without Borders. This time of year can be so hard without some of our loved ones, so its good to know we can sing and dance to feel better and remember them. Your home looks so wonderful this time of year! Thanks for sharing it!!!
Hi Lady Carnavon
I loved your Post – Thank you for sharing your thoughts on such a lovely day!
I came to visit HighClere for first time shortly after I moved to England (from Scotland) and came to the Christmas Fayre – I loved it! My 14yo daughter is now old enough to enjoy Downton Abbey, and she was very excited to make her first visit yesterday at the Christmas & Carols event!
While I may not have been able to take a photo of her as she sashayed down the Oak staircase with the biggest grin ever on her face, it was a moment I will never forget! Thank you xx
Thank you for sharing your beautiful home! (I want to say I ran into you yesterday in the Tea Room as we manoeuvred our delicious chocolate cake out to a Marquee? But I may be wrong!)
Merry Christmas xx*xxx
Thank you – I was there on the Thursday ?
Merry Christmas to you and yours and a blessed New Year!
Look forward to your blog and I am thoroughly enjoying you latest book, Christmas at Highclere, especially the reference s to your Sally, I to am a Sally ans like yours Christmas mad!
We toured Scotland in August and visited Highclere on the 29th August, so I have a Scottish theme this Christmas with a good dollop of Highclere thrown in. Have made 6our Christmas cake and pudding so far!
Merry Christmas to you all from New Zealand
Thank you !
I’ve just returned from seeing the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Biltmore in North Carolina. It brought back memories from my visit to HighClere in 2014 when you graciously allowed our cruise excursion to visit when you were unable to join us for lunch as planned. It was the highlight of that trip. Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones!
Thank you so much Sue!
My mother, too, loved “In the bleak midwinter”. I think of her fondly every time I hear it played or sung.
I am thoroughly enjoying reading your entries. They are so informative and often, thought provoking. Thank you!
I am thrilled to become part of the Monday Family! I have supported the “Doctors” for many years as well..a glorious way of sharing the Carols message.Thank you once again. Donna from Idaho.
Thank you – the doctor who spoke just about kept it together – she was great. We all just about kept it together – just
Had a lovely day yesterday u have a beautiful home and I love your Christmas book we’ll be back for another visitx
You know… every time I read your blog it reminds me of a time when I would receive a letter from one of my family or friends back home in America. Arriving as a young bride 40 years ago letters that held thoughts and stories of events nurtured and supported a bond of love and belonging. I think, Lady Carnarvon that you do the same for all of us. A feeling of connection with Highclere castle and those who live and work there. Thank you.
Merry Christmas from sunny Queensland, Australia. Enjoying reading your countdown to Christmas. Am sure to come back and visit Highclere again. My two Highclere Christmas baubles take pride of place on the Christmas garland.
Holiday greetings to our “Monday Family” (‘love that idea, as we gather to read the tales of Highclere every Monday) Thank you for sharing the fun and joy of the Season, it’s almost like being there! And today, before I opened your blog, the Greek postal courier service delivered “Christmas at Highclere”…what a grand book, and will be a fun cozy read, I am sure. Also, I already flipped through to see the yummy recipes, beautiful photos, and ‘love the “quiz” pages which will make for some happy “game time” this Christmas season with friends, all fans of Downton and Highclere.
The quizes are fun – it is as ever a mixture of a book from cooking to ghost stories – I hope you enjoy it
Dear Lady C.,
What a lovely thought – the Monday family. I too look forward to reading your news – except that in Australia we get it Tuesday morning. You brighten my week, with your humour and anecdotes. I share your stories with an elderly cousin (only found last year through ancestry). She calls you Lady C. and sends her love too.
I am not able to do Scottish reels, but have joined our U3A (University of the third age) classes for Line Dancing and Ballet for Seniors. Both hilarious, good exercise and the making and meeting of new friends. Our teachers are unpaid, and just share their love of these activities for others benefit. Wonderful.
Anyway, may our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and all our “Monday family” this year as we celebrate His birth.
With love from Tamborine Mountain,
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You have given me joy on my Birthday! Although I have been waiting over 6 weeks now, and have grown so discouraged at the fact of the delinquency of the book ‘Christmas At Highclere‘, I can feel a special warmth of family and friends after reading and looking at your pictures. You have a wonderful gift that way!!
A Special and Sincere Christmas Wish with Warm Regards,
Happy Birthday Jane!!!
With many hopes this year is an especially lovely one.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Thank you for another lovely post. I was a bit taken aback when I did the math and realized that “seventy-five years ago” was just barely beyond the reach of my own childhood memories of Christmas! Back then, 75 years ago would have been within the reign of Queen Victoria. I must learn to deal with being thought quaint…
I am sitting in my favorite chair,which is a armed and beige cordory. Because my house was built in 1930 it never had a ceiling light,so I have a lamp on. I am of in view of our beautiful Christmas tree. While I gaze at it. I am thinking of Highclere castle fully decorated with antique and vintage Christmas decorations. What a beautiful sight I bet it is.
Like I have said before. Please don’t stop blogging, as I look forward to reading them. They bring me to Highclere castle everytime. Even though I doubt it that I will ever be able to see it in person, as my husband and I live paycheck to paycheck.
Thank you for your kind note
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What you wrote at the very beginning of this article, about the paradox of our modern life, is so true.
It immediately struck a chord because as president of a non-profit organization that goes to great lengths to maintain a castle ( “Les Amis du Chateau de Trazegnies”, close to Charleroi, Belgium) I observe how difficult sometimes it is to “make people ” take part in our events.
So I could not help reacting to your introduction. We are so nervous here when we launch an event (will it work? How many people will attend? so on..).
But I can deduct from your pictures that your event “worked” a lot! So much the better. Thank you for your blog. well written and often so fascinating.
Merry Christmas to you, your family and all your staff, from the volunteers of the castle of Trazegnies!
Thank you – it did work and it is trying to collaborate to build partnerships …
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Carols at Christmastime are always an integral part of the season-and it is obvious it is no different at Highclere Castle. I enjoyed reading about all of the festive cheer in you new book Christmas at Highclere. There are sections about every facet of your celebrations and your glorious recipes are sure to become cherished favorites of mine. I absolutely love the book. It was such an inspired idea as it really brings the Highclere Christmas touches to my own celebration of the season. Thank you for your wonderful writing and great ideas for celebrating Christmas and New Years! I also wish your family and the staff at Highclere a gloriously Happy Christmas and wonderful New Year.
Ann Catherine Flood
Thank you for such a lovely post.
Best Wishes, from Louisville, Kentucky, USA,
Family, Community and Connection very important ingredients for a happy life. And don’t leave out our creator.
Love reading your blogs. Keep them coming.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New year
Phyllis Simpson, USA
Agreed – thank you
Merry Christmas from Newfoundland Labrador Canada. I loved Downton Abbey, and now I love reading your stories every week as they help start my Mondays off just right. Thank you for creating and sharing your blog.
I love Labradors!!!
Just made a donation to Doctors Without Borders yesterday, and I’m very proud of Hawaii’s Lt Governor Dr Green for taking a large group of medical personnel to help fight the measles epidemic in Samoa.
Your Christmas celebrations look wonderful!
Wishing all of Highclere a very happy Christmas, from the Big Island of Hawaii.
What a marvelous new tradition – that I truly would have loved to experience
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
CHRISTMAS IS HERE, ALL HAPPINESS BRINGING , EVEN THE BIRDS THEIR CAROLS ARE SINGING.
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM BRAZIL FOR YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR STAFF.
RIO CLARO – SP
Question: How did the Airbnb stay play out? If there is an article about it I missed it.
We will share that – we have a little video!
je découvre votre blog,mais hélas je ne parle pas un mot d’Anglais,je me contente des images !!!!
j’ai adoré la série Downton Abbey,votre château lui en a fait un bel écrin.
Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year from Countryside, Illinois, USA