If you, like me, have spent a lot of time reading hymnals, you might know that most hymns, in addition to having a title, have a tune name that identifies the music, separate from the text. The other day I was playing the Christmas carol “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” (I know, it’s still Advent! But it’s in a minor key, so it’s okay!) from a Presbyterian hymnal and noticed (not for the first time) that the name of the tune was “Une jeune pucelle” (French for “A young maid,” where “maid” has its most archaic sense). (The only song I’ve ever learned with the word “pucelle” in it is “Au chant de l’alouette,” a Québécois song the counselors at Voyageur camp would sing to us after we’d settled down for the night in our tents.) “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” is itself a French Canadian Christmas carol. The original text was written in the 17th century by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary, in Wendat (Huron). The tune is evidently older, though.
Here’s an arrangement of “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” by Cantus:
I looked up “Une jeune pucelle” to see what I could find and discovered it was a song about the Virgin Mary. It’s very pretty, but the tune of “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” strikes me as having migrated somewhat from that of “Une jeune pucelle”:
Then somehow I discovered that “Une jeune pucelle” developed from an earlier song, “Une jeune fillette” (“A young girl”), which turns out to be about a girl (no longer–or rather, not yet–the Virgin Mary) who is made a nun against her will and wants to die. Fun times. It’s much more clearly the same melody:
And finally, if you’re not sick of this, here’s a great track from the album In the Fields in Frost and Snow that’s called “Huron Carol” (another name for “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”). The Huron Carol is really only the instrumental part at the beginning, though; then there are two songs in French, one about starvation and the other about one’s clothes only having one button.