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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

[words Robert L. May]

The famous Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started life as a poem created in 1939 by an American advertising executive called Robert L. May. He was requested to produce a poem that could be given to children by the Santa Claus employed by Department Stores at Christmas. 2.4 million poems were given away in its first year of publication. In 1949 the singer Gene Autry recorded a musical version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer composed by Johnny Marks.

BACCApella (the singers of Bacca Pipes Folk Club; amongst them at the time were Maggie Boyle, Lynda Hardcastle, Fay Hield, Mike and Helen Hockenhull, and Tim Moon) sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to the tune Northfield from The Sacred Harp in 1999 on their privately released CD The Haworth Set.

Jon Boden, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Gavin Davenport, Fay Hield and Sam Sweeney sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Royal Hotel in Dunworth as the 22 December 2010 entry of Jon’s project A Folk Song a Day. Jon noted in this blog:

Possibly the finest example of “one song to the tune of another” ever devised—credit must go to BACCApella (from Bacca Pipes Folk Club). Fay has sung with them for many years and I have started tagging along more recently.

This video shows Lucy Ward and Elly Lucas singing their version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 2011:

The Melrose Quartet (including Jess and Rich Arrowsmith from above) sing the Rudolph verses to a lot of suitable tunes too. On their 2019 CD The Rudolph Variations they chose the tunes of Cranbrook, Pleasant and Delightful, Sovay, My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him and Now Westlin Winds, but if you see them live don’t be surprised if they loot others like The House of the Rising Sun or the Australian National Anthem.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
You would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then all the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
You’ll go down in history!”