Why an Apple Tree?

apple-tree1Along with the Authorised parts of the Bible there is a group of books which did not have the full backing of the Canonical Committee who decided what should be ‘in’ and what should be left ‘out’.  And so the the Apocrapha contains some of the ‘doubtful’ ones which still have something to offer.

 And so it is with some of our carols. Some are based on delightful stories, such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’, some such as ‘Candlemas Eve Carol’  and ‘The Holly and the Ivy’talk of the woodlands, plants  and trees, whilst others such as ‘The Cherry Tree Carol’, about the life of Joseph are pure stories. And yet others such as ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ are quite nonsensical.

Recently at the Cathedral we heard the haunting piece ‘Jesus Christ the Apple Tree’. Why should this carol (nothing to do with Christmas!) hold some special place in our psyche. Even Archbishop Robert Runcie loved it. It could be called an allegorical poem and was written with a very-simple verse construction by an anonymous New Englander, appearing  in a collection in New Hampshire in 1784, so the words have been around for a long time. Open a Bible at The Song of Solomon, and you find in Chapter 2, lovely references to the Rose of Sharon, the lily, and, yes, there it is, the apple tree. The words of the carol refer directly to the Biblical verses….so no mystery there.

elizabeth-postonThe music is extremely simple. Written in the key of C, with no incidentals it is easy to learn and memorise. It sounds a bit like a form of plainchant with many repeated notes. Also when sung it usually begins in unison and graduallybecomes more rich with other parts coming in. It was written by Elizabeth Poston, who only died in 1987.

So, another quirky set of words which add to the wonderfully-diverse tapestry of worship we have available to us.

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