The carol came to England from France, where a carole was a song to accompany a round dance (which accounts for the lively, generally triple-meter, character of medieval carols). By the later fourteenth century carols were sometimes associated simply with festive occasions, such as banquets.
During this same period Franciscan friars promoted the development of popular songs which taught spiritual truths and encouraged virtue. Often these religious leaders simply wrote new sets of words for the popular songs (frequently carols) of the day. Thus, the early “religious” carols had an educational purpose and generally were not associated with public worship. Scholars have found some evidence that by the fifteenth century some of these carols may have been used in the liturgy, usually as processionals that replaced the Latin processional hymns. (Some still would serve well as processionals today.)
While most carols are associated with Christmas, there are several well known Easter carols, and many that are not as well-known. This particular carol comes from Russia, and gives religious meaning to the Easter egg. Stravinsky used the music from this carol (which came from a Russian folk song) in his ballet Petrushka.
This arrangement is exciting and easy to master: the melody stays in a 5-finger position, and the left hand chords and counterpoint fit easily under the hand.
Key: G Dorian
Mood: happy, exuberant
Pedagogy: staccato, phrasing, repeats