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Sydney Carter (1915-2004)


Sydney Carter

The genius of Sydney Carter uniquely contributed to the history of 20th century popular culture, with a radical vision of one man’s theology that continues to speak boldly to millions through the medium of contemporary yet timeless songs. At least three of them, Lord of the Dance, One More Step, and When I Needed a Neighbour, have impressed themselves in countless hearts and minds as modern anthems, their perfect union of the simple and the profound being ideally suited not only to be sung at weddings, funerals and school assemblies, but also for private reflection. Indeed, as Carter’s friend Rabbi Lionel Blue observed, Carter’s songs have the status of psalms for today, the testament of a free-thinking spirit whose theology was always to question and to doubt, in ways that also reflected broader 20th-century currents of approaches to belief and faith. He himself declared that ‘they are songs which can be sung in a Christian context, but they all had to mean something to me because I was often on the edge of not believing.’


A historian by training – he read history at Balliol College, Oxford, after attending a council school in Islington and Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham – Sydney Carter dreamed of becoming a film producer or painter, but instead found his vocation through a passionate involvement in the folk revival that followed the Second World War. A stylish and idiosyncratic performer, he progressed from humble beginnings in pubs and clubs in the 1950s to singing alongside such luminaries as Martin Carthy, Ewan MacColl, Pete Seeger and Judy Collins, while producing material for London revues and for Flanders and Swann. A poet, a sceptic and an iconoclast, in the 1960s he also played his part in the controversial satire boom epitomised in the ground-breaking TV programme That Was the Week That Was, to which he contributed.


Suffering in old age from Alzheimer’s disease, Sydney Carter retained a thread of contact with reality through his lyrics, which he continued to recognise and sing with Lionel Blue. His spirit will likewise live on in words and music for forthcoming generations, as a dream of the general dance in which doubts are reconciled and hope renewed in a powerful affirmation of the future.

 


Sydney CarterBy nature a radical, Sydney was no stranger to controversy, and for a long period after joining the Stainer & Bell ‘family’ he remained a marginal figure, outside the theological establishment. That his work now belongs firmly in the mainstream of worship material used in churches and schools worldwide is a potent symbol both of evolving attitudes in society and of the integrity and scope of his vision.

 

Sydney Carter died on 13th March 2004, aged 88. He left an enduring legacy of songs published by Stainer & Bell over four decades, including One More Step, When I Needed  a Neighbour, and Lord of the Dance, that are benchmarks for the fresh and creative expression of perennial questions of faith and doubt.

 

Several obituaries for Sydney Carter can now be found here.


Sydney CarterIn August 1996 Sydney was interviewed by The Times newspaper, for an article entitled "Folk singer strikes chord with young worshippers". The story arose out of the fact that in a recent survey of schools in the UK, three of the most sung copyright songs in assemblies were composed by Sydney. One More Step came first, Lord of the Dance was in fifth place and When I needed a neighbour was the sixth most sung song.

In the interview Sydney said:
"They are songs which can be sung in a Christian context, but they all had to mean something to me because I was often on the edge of not believing. The songs certainly have not made my fortune, but I am still grateful for the royalties when they come in." ..."There are obvious problems with so many denominations in schools today, but I had collective worship at school and I do not think it is a bad thing."

The Times - Thursday August 29 1996

 

 


Sydney's faith was contained in this quotation from his poem Interview:

"So what do you believe in?
Nothing fixed or final,
all the while I
travel a miracle. I doubt,
and yet
I walk upon the water"

Publications

These titles can be ordered in our online shop, or, in the case of rental works, through our Hire Library. The items with [PDF] after them are links to free sample pages in the Adobe Actobat format


CD | Songbooks | Choral | Poems

 

CD

Lord of the Dance CD

Lord of the Dance (Ref. CD0087)
Compilation of 26 Sydney Carter Songs featuring The Swingle Singers, Martyn Joseph, Sarah-Jane Morris, Matt Redman and Sydney Carter.

Full Details...

   

PDF File

Lord of the Dance PDF

Lord of the Dance (Ref. F001)
This solo song version of Lord of the Dance with piano accompaniment and chord symbols is available for immediate download as an Adobe PDF file and is sold under the terms of a personal use licence. You will obviously need PDF reading software such as the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. to view or print the file.



Songbooks

In the Present Tense, Book 1

In the Present Tense, Book 1 (Ref. 25068)
18 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.
After six and all day Sunday (A - B); Bird of heaven (A - A); British Museum waltz (B flat - C); Come, love, carolling (A - C); George Fox (C - C); Glass of water (G - A); Judas and Mary (B - B); Like the snow (B - D); Long time since I had a lesson (C - D); Man with a microphone (A - D); The Mask I wore (A - B); The Postmaster General (B - B); Say who you are love (B flat - B flat); Standing in the rain (D - E); Thou mastering me (B - B); Two thousand years away (C - C); The Vicar is a beatnik (B flat - B flat); Zero one (B flat - C)


In the Present Tense, Book 2

In the Present Tense, Book 2 (Ref. 25075)
17 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.
All alone and all together (D - B); Bell of creation (A - C); Better take a book to bed (C - C); Bitter was the night (C - E flat); Down below (B flat - E flat); Feeling sad and lonely (C - B); Friday morning (C sharp- E); Good literature (B - B); I want to have a little bomb like you (C - C); Lord of the Dance (D - D); Middle-aged, middle-class, mediocre (G - C); Mixed up old man (D - D); My last cigarette (C - E); Never can tell (A - D); Present tense (B - B); The Rat race (B - B); Silver in the stubble (B - D)


In the Present Tense, Book 3

In the Present Tense, Book 3 (Ref. 25078)
19 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.
The Crow on the cradle (B - D); The Devil wore a Crucifix (B - E); Every star shall sing a carol (C - D); Here we go up to Bethlehem (D - D); My mum was a woman (D - C); Nowhere and never (A - C); Plato in a paperback (D - C); Port Mahon (B - D); Putting out the dustbin (C(B) - D); Run the film backwards (G - C); Say Mr Barber (B - D); Son of Man (C - C); Travel on (D - D); Upon a Sunday morning (C - C); When I needed a neighbour (B - E); When the sailor came ashore (B - B); When they shouted Hosanna (B - E); When were you really living? (C - E flat); You think with a bomb (B - D)


In the Present Tense, Book 4

In the Present Tense, Book 4 (Riding a Tune) (Ref. B098)
16 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.
The Candlelight (A - A); Cattle rule the ranches (A - D); Come holy harlequin (B flat - B flat); Coming or going away (C - D); Cruel Ann (D - C); Doctor Spock (C - D); Eros (A - B flat); Fifth of November (G - G); Girl in a garden (B - B); Green like the leaves (D - D); The Holy horses (A - A); Last exit to Brooklyn (B - C); One more step (D - D); Put the moon in the dustbin (C - C); Shake and Shiver (B flat - C); Up at the house of Cecil Sharp (A - A)


In the Present Tense, Book 5

In the Present Tense, Book 5 (Ref. B500)
13 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.
Cape carol (E - E); Carol of the creatures (B - D); Cocks are crowing (E flat - E flat); Creator of the living (B - D); Flag of the Earth (E - E); Harvest song (D - D); In the looking glass of Francis (D - D); I used to dance before the Lord (B - E); John Ball (C sharp - E); Julian of Norwich (D - E); Pluck the rose that will not whither (C - D); A Stone for God (G - E); To the first of my lovers (D - D)


Lord of the Dance

Lord of the Dance and other songs and poems (Ref. B855)
Songbook to accompany the Lord of the Dance CD
Poem: My Believing Bones; Lord of the Dance; Present Tense; Poem: Doubting Tom; Pluck the Rose; Poem: What is Impossible; Poem: Run the Film Backwards; Come, Holy Harlequin; Judas and Mary; Poem: The New Song; Poem: Reversal; Poem: By this Sea; Poem: Robinson Crusoe; Bird of Heaven; After Six and All Day Sunday; Poem: The Future in the Past; Green like the Leaves; Shake and Shiver; Poem: Christ’s Hospital; Poem: In Coram Fields; Poem: Interview; Creator of the Living; Julian of Norwich; One More Step; Like the Snow; Poem: This Black Light

Full Details...


Choral

Carol of the Universe

Carol of the Universe (Every star shall sing a carol) (Ref. W148) [PDF]
SS (or A) and Piano

I come like a beggar

I come like a beggar (Ref. W150) [PDF]  
Unison and Piano

Greepprint for Song

Lord of the Dance. Multi-purpose edition (Ref. SS66) [PDF]
This is a multi-purpose version of the most famous of all contemporary carols. The arrangement can be played and sung by any number of voices or instruments: unison, SA, SAB, SATB, backing group, and speech-singers; treble melody instruments, bass instruments, guitar, accordian, piano, organ or harp. Full instructions are given for any combination of amateur performers.


Lord of the Dance. Unison arr. John Rutter

Lord of the Dance. Unison arr. John Rutter (Ref. W202) [PDF]
Vocal Score. Unison Voices (with optional descant) and piano
This newly published vocal score for John Rutter's arrangement of Sydney Carters's Lord of the Dance may be used for performance of the work either with piano accompaniment, or in an orchestral version, for which the material is available for rental (Ref. HL339). The internationally recognised composer and arranger has captured each changing mood of this much-loved song in a colourful and dramatic adaptation.
For supply to the USA or Canada, please contact Hope Publishing.


 

Lord of the Dance. Unison arr. A G Mathew

Lord of the Dance. Unison (Ref. 20904)
Unison voices and organ

Lord of the Dance. Unison arr. A G MathewLord of the Dance. SATB and Piano arr. John Rutter

Lord of the Dance. SATB and Piano arr. John Rutter (Ref. W206)   [PDF]  
Vocal Score. SATB and piano
The same arrangement by John Rutter as Ref. W202 but with the vocal part arranged for SATB. This may either be performed with piano or with the same orchestral accompaniment as for the unison version (Ref. HL339). The SATB version has been recorded by the Cambridge Singers and the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by John Rutter, on the Collegium Album Feel the Spirit (Collegium COLCD 128).
For supply to the USA or Canada, please contact Hope Publishing.


Lord of the Dance. Unison arr. A G MathewLord of the Dance. SATB and Piano arr. John Rutter

Lord of the Dance. Soprano Solo, SATB and Organ arr. Ashley Grote (Ref. W228)   [PDF]  
Soprano Solo, SATB and Organ
Ashley Grote's arrangement of this much-loved song releases the energy of the words and music in a modern style that reflects the compelling appeal of the piece for contemporary audiences and worshippers. Already widely available in hymn collections, as an anthem Lord of the Dance may now be sung by church choirs in this winning new version which embraces the musical freedoms of our time, while drawing on the rich tradition of cathedral music and the enthusiasm of Gloucester Cathedral Youth Choir for whom it was written.


Lord of the Dance. SATB Unaccompanied arr. David Willcocks

Lord of the Dance. SATB Unaccompanied arr. David Willcocks (Ref. W169) [PDF]
SATB unaccompanied
For supply to the USA or Canada, please contact Hope Publishing.

Lord of the Dance. SAB or SATB arr. John Ferguson

Lord of the Dance. SAB or SATB arr. John Ferguson (Ref. W186)
SAB or SATB with organ or electronic keyboards
For supply to USA please contact ECS Publishing.

One More Step. Unison arr. Craig McLeish

One More Step. Unison arr. Craig McLeish (Ref. W203) [PDF]
Unison and keyboard
Featuring on Stainer & Bell's Sydney Carter's Lord of the Dance CD, this new arrangement adds cheeky reggae rhythms to this much-loved popular song, with accompaniment from acoustic or electronic keyboard.


One More Step

One More Step (Ref. W151) [PDF]  
SSA with optional Piano

Stars of the Cross (Cape Carol)

Stars of the Cross (Cape Carol) (Ref. W149) [PDF]  
SSA and Piano


Poems


The Two-Way Clock

The Two-Way Clock (Ref. B287)
Reprinted in 2000 this collection contains Sydney's poetry collections Nothing Fixed or Final; Love More or Less previously published separately together with The Feel of Wood as well as a previously unpublished poem. 107 poems by this prolific writer. Some will recognise the Housman influence in them. All can enjoy their language.
ISBN 0 85249 287 1





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