Christmas Carol Resources

I’ve been putting together a booklet of public domain Christmas Carols for a sing-along on Christmas Eve. While some wonderful carols were written since 1923, most of my favorites are public domain in the US. Using only these carols allows me to publish them without having to negotiate rights or limit distribution, and, of course, I can then post the book here when I’m finished. (At which point I will probably rewrite this post.)

However, finding public domain sources for all of my favorites has been an interesting challenge. Some hadn’t yet become standards. Others were well known, but not widely disseminated in four part arrangements.

For a few, like “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” there are popular arrangements which aren’t verifiably in the public domain. I know I’ll have to arrange those myself if I want to include them.

For others, however, I have deepened a search I began several years ago for public domain sources. I’ve found a number of helpful sites, and a dozen or so good offline sources. I’m going to enumerate a few of them here.

The most comprehensive resource available, online or off, is A Treasury of Christmas Carols; The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. At first, the unusually heavy amount of advertising led me to believe it was one of the many spam sites designed to attract Google traffic without actually offering anything. However, it quickly became apparent that the site is both heavily researched and dedicated to the widespread propagation of this material. I have come to truly appreciate the depth of committment and research that has gone into the site, and it continues to grow. Many pieces have been transcribed and offered as NWC, PDF, and XML files. This year, I was pleased to see that scans were added for some of the source material.

Other sites I’ve found useful include the Online Christmas Songbook, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and the Choral Public Domain Library.

I’ve been able to scan a few of the public domain resources I’ve found in libraries or bought for my personal collection. I will post a few of them here temporarily, though I may move them to a site like the Internet Archive which can handle the more intense bandwidth requirements:

Carols; Their Origin, Music, and Connection with Mystery-Plays by William J. Phillips. Published in 1921 by Geo. Routledge & Sons in London and E. P. Dutton in New York.

The Story of the Carol by Edmondstoune Duncan, published in 1911 by The Walter Scott Publishing Co. in London and Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York.

And, Christmas Carols and Hymns for School and Choir Ed. by Hollis Dann, published in 1910 by the American Book Company.