Strange Wonders – The Wexford Carols, Vol. II

Strange Wonders

Brings Together Folk, Classical and Traditional Music Luminaries to Present Ireland’s Greatest Christmas Music.

Out Nov 12th on Heresy Records

Produced by Ethan Johns and featuring Singers Caitríona O’Leary, Seth Lakeman, John Smith, Clara Sanabras & Stile Antico with Instrumentalists Alison Balsom, Olov Johansson, Simone Collavecchi & others

In 1684 Luke Waddinge, Bishop of Ferns, Co. Wexford, published A Smale Garland of Pious & Godly Songs in Ghent. Written as a solace for people like him, disinherited Irish Catholic gentry, Waddinge’s poems are set to popular tunes of the day, both Irish & English (because, in spite of politics, music has such tremendous, borderless power, and a good tune is always a good tune!). The carols became so popular that they were reprinted twice over the next half-century. The singing of these semi-illicit carols from the penal times was given further momentum by Fr. William Devereux who, in 1728, composed A New Garland Containing Songs for Christmas. These two collections, along with the famous ‘Enniscorthy Carol’, form the repertoire of a tradition of carol singing in County Wexford.

The Waddinge and Devereux Garlands are written in English and contain lyrics for twenty-two Christmas songs. Twelve of the carols have been handed down, mouth to ear to mouth, through the generations, and are still sung over the twelve days of Christmas in the parish of Kilmore, Co. Wexford – a beautiful living history. Over the centuries, however, many of the tunes have been lost; only six are still in the traditional repertoire.

Caitríona O’Leary’s fascination with the carols led to a long period of research and investigation during which time she discovered many of the lost melodies. This recording introduces another eleven of these most beautiful carols (including a reprise of ‘The Enniscorthy Carol’ and a different version of ‘The Darkest Midnight’ in December) that expand the living tradition.

The carols represent the astonishingly rich, yet rare, tradition of Irish Christmas music. Strange Wonders, The Wexford Carols, Vol.II by Caitríona O’Leary & Ethan Johns will be released November 12th on Heresy Records (

In 2014 Heresy Records released the first volume of the carols to international critical acclaim. Titled The Wexford Carols, the album reached  number 1 on both the Billboard and Amazon charts.

The songs on the first Wexford Carols focused on the best-known episodes of the Christmas story. Produced by Joe Henry and featuring singers Caitríona O’Leary, Tom Jones, Rosanne Cash and Rhiannon Giddens, the album musically linked Irish traditional music with its Americana cousins. (

Strange Wonders, The Wexford Carols Vol. II, is the highly anticipated follow up to the previous album.  Strange Wonders, The Wexford Carols Vol. II features another eleven carols from the tradition that focus on the spiritual and mystical aspects of the Christmas story – Gabriel’s visitation to Mary, the humble stable, the meeting of Herod and the Magi, the Fall (of Lucifer and of Adam), the Mystery of God as Man – as well as less familiar aspects of this narrative including carols to the saints whose feast days fall within the 12 days of Christmas (24th December – 6th January). These includes carols for St Stephen, St. John, St. Sylvester and the Holy Innocents.

For Strange Wonders, The Wexford Carols Vol. II, singer/arranger Caitríona O’Leary and producer Ethan Johns have adopted an intimate interpretation of these remarkable and moving carols that marries early music, folk music and classical styles, bringing together an ensemble of  luminaries that include Seth Lakeman (voice, viola), Clara Sanabras (voice, baroque guitar), John Smith (voice, guitar), Stile Antico (Choir), Alison Balsom (trumpet), Olov Johannson (nyckelharapa), Simone Collavechi (lute & renaissance guitar), Deirdre O’Leary (bass clarinet), Mel Mercier (percussion), and John Hearne (bassoon).

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