New Year’s Greeting–Britten’s “A New Year Carol”

220px-Ilex_aquifoliumOn this last day of 2015, here is an audio excerpt from our 2014 program Carols Rare and Bright. “A New Year Carol” is from Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons (op.7), a collection of songs written for the students of Clive House School in Prestatyn, Wales, where the composer’s brother was Headmaster.

The text relates a Welsh custom of sprinkling people and the doorways with water newly drawn from a well. The words “Levy dew” may be derived from the Old English levedy (“lady”), or from the French Levez à Dieu (“Raise to God”), which alludes to the elevation of the host during the Eucharist. (This would explain the water and the wine in the words that follow.) The “seven bright gold wires” represent the strings of a golden harp, presumably played by an angelic chorus that also includes shining bugles. The “Fair Maid” is medieval personification of the Virgin Mary. The East and West doorways are both literal and metaphorical.

Here are the lyrics, followed by the link to the recording.


“New Year Carol” (Walter de la Mare)

Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy New Year.

Chorus (after each verse):
Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe;
Open you the West Door and turn the Old Year go.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin;
Open you the East Door and let the New Year in.


Click here for this live performance on SoundCloud of “A New Year Carol.” The singers are Ariel Pisturino and Anthony Moreno, with Krystof Van Grysperre at the piano.

We wish all of our visitors and friends a very happy and musical New Year!



2 thoughts on “New Year’s Greeting–Britten’s “A New Year Carol””

  1. Please note, Pretatyn, Denbighshire is in Wales, NOT in England! – but thanks for the origin of the words to Britten’s New Year Carol!! 😊

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