When I was the ‘Composer in Residence’ for Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge I was commissioned to compose a Christmas carol for their 2006 Christmas concert in Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge. I wrote the carol for brass quintet, organ and full choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). I approached my good friend Graeme Smith to write the words and I gave him complete freedom in the subject matter. He had read the story of the Mousehole (‘mauzel’) cat and thought it would be fun to write a carol about the Christmas lights of Mousehole village in Cornwall, England. Graeme had also been moved by the very tragic story of the Penlee Lifeboat which was lost in 1981 and wanted to compose a carol that was about the sea.
Anyway the story does not end there….
A few years later the Mousehole Male Voice Choir contacted me and asked if they could perform the carol at their Christmas Concert in Mousehole. It was a fantastic honour to be asked, and that Christmas both Graeme and I attended the Cornish premiere of our carol. It was a wonderful occasion and the small village church (St Paul de Leon, Paul) was packed. The carol went down extremely well with the community and the following year the Mousehole Male Voice Choir released a Christmas CD featuring this carol, and this is the recording you hear in this link.
The Christmas Lights of Mousehole
Words By Graeme Smith
Music By Sheridan Tongue
In the tiny village of Mousehole
At Christmas every year
The harbour’s lit with special lights
Folk come from far and near.
They celebrate a fisherman
A man both brave and strong
They say he worked a miracle
His spirit will live long
Shine the glorious lights of Christmas
Shine to show the way
Light the path to our salvation
Save us on this day
A storm raged up the Cornish coast
For all of Christmas week
The families of Mousehole town
Had nothing left to eat
Tom lived alone with just his cat
That night he heard a voice
“Put to sea Tom catch some fish
There isn’t any choice”
Tom’s boat was small against the waves
Against the screaming wind
Time and again he cast his nets
And fought to pull them in.
With baskets full to brim with fish
He turned to run for home
the waves grew even bigger still
The sky was flecked with foam
“Help me Lord” old Tom called out
above the wild winds cry
a miracle then came about
the storm began to die
As Tom grew close to harbour walls
With light they were aglow
Men with lanterns stood the length
To safely guide him home.