… the Mighty Gitchigoomee: Huron Carol

As small children we sang in choir “The Huron Carol” a lot during the months of November and December.  I presume this was to get us ready for Christmas because the refrain contains “Jesus is born”.

I hadn’t heard the song in a long time.  But when I pulled out one of my favorite CDs (once as vinyl) Liona Boyd’s A Guitar for Christmas one of the songs was “The Mighty Gitchigoomee.”   Or rather, when I looked at the title and to verify the identify I discovered it was, “The Huron Carol”.   I wonder why  I’d simply remembered it as “the Mighty Gitchigoomee”? Our public school choir teacher made us practice how to sing some portion of the song correctly and I remember practicing over and over the second line, “The Mighty Gitchigoomee …”

You must admit the name is catchy.  When I played the song for my sister during a Christmas visit, she said, “I know that one.”

“Good,” I responded, “What’s it called?”  She  said “it’s about Golameenee”.

“Aha,” I was enthusiastic at the similar memory. Why do we both remember someone or something that wasn’t in the song?  Afterall, Golameenee is close to Gitchigoomee.  But not close to “Gitchi Manitou” who is in the song.  We were five years apart in the school system and we didn’t have the same choir teacher.

Now if you think of what other songs we might have sung in school, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” refers in the first stanza to the great lake Superior as the “big lake they call Gitche Gumee”.

Could both of us have confused the same two Canadian classics?

“The Huron Carol”  is, regardless of which lyrics,  a beautiful song.  Not long ago, Humble Uker posted a link to a ukulele version of the song.  Thanks, Jeff.

The Huron Carol (‘Twas In The Moon of Winter Time)

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Words: Jean de Brebeuf, ca. 1643; trans by Jesse Edgar Middleton, 1926
Music: French Canadian melody (tune name: Jesous Ahatonhia)

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