"The Holly and the Ivy" is a traditional British folk Christmas carol. The song is catalogued as Roud Folk Song Index No. 514
The Holly and the Ivy - Wikipedia
The Holly and the Ivy (Roud 514)
The Holly and the Ivy - Gloucestershire ChristmasGloucestershire Christmas
The words of the carol occur in two broadsides published in Birmingham in the early nineteenth century.
The_Holly_Ivy-Douce adds. 137(63)-14991-crop.jpg (672×926)
See Bodleian Library: Ballads Online
And here's an anonymous broadside published by H. Wadsworth, Birmingham, 1814-1818.
Note the repetition of "the sun".
The words of the carol were also included in Sylvester's 1861 collection "A Garland of Christmas Carols", where it is claimed to originate from "an old broadside, printed a century and a half since" (i.e. around 1711).
The usual melody for the carol was first published in Cecil Sharp's 1911 collection "English Folk-Carols".
Sharp states that he heard the tune sung by 64 year old "Mrs. Mary Clayton, at Chipping Campden".
Mary Ann Clayton - Gloucestershire ChristmasGloucestershire Christmas
Sharp's manuscript transcription of Clayton's singing of the third verse, dated "Jan 13th 1909", is archived in the Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection at Clare College, Cambridge and viewable online.
Vaughan Williams Memorial Library :: Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/10/2068 The Holly And The Ivy. Xmas Carol [Christmas Carol]
The melody is notable in being confined to the notes of the hexachord.
In 1915 Rutland Boughton incorporated "The Holly and the Ivy" in his Music-Drama "Bethlehem".
Boughton: Bethlehem - CDA66690 - Rutland Boughton (1878-1960) - Hyperion Records - MP3 and Lossless downloads
The Choir of H.M. Chapels Royal was probably first to record "The Holly and the Ivy" in 1926.
(c) Choir of H.M. Chapels Royal (1926) (Cecil Sharp version)
Conducted by Stanley Roper, Organist and Composer at H.M. Chapels Royal.
Recorded at Chapel Royal, St. James Palace, London
Released on HMV E 443
78 RPM - Choir Of H.M. Chapels Royal - Welcome Yule / Infant So Gentle - His Master's Voice - UK - E 443
But the first recorded version I could find:
(o) The English Singers (1928) (Rutland Boughton version)
Recorded circa 1927
Released as part of 12 record album on the Roycroft-label (Roycroft # 157)
Roycroft Records 78rpm numerical listing discography
Listen here: https://ia600807.us.archive.org/32/items/78_the-holly-and-the-ivy_the-english-singers-ruthland-boughton_gbia0017696a/The Holly and The Ivy - The English Singers.mp3
The Holly and The Ivy : The English Singers : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
It's also the title of a 1952 Yuletide drama.
The Holly and the Ivy (film) - Wikipedia
(c) Petula Clark (1958) (Cecil Sharp-version)
45cat - Petula Clark - A Christmas Carol - Pye Nixa - UK
(c) Bing Crosby (1962) (medley: "What Child Is This? / The Holly and the Ivy") (Cecil Sharp-version)
Vinyl Album - Bing Crosby - I Wish You A Merry Christmas - Warner Bros. - USA
(c) Joan Sutherland (1965) (Cecil Sharp version)
Joan Sutherland With The New Philharmonia Orchestra* Conducted By Richard Bonynge - The Twelve Days Of Christmas (Vinyl) at Discogs
(c) Ivy League (1965) (part of the "Holly and Ivy League")
45cat - The Ivy League - The Holly and The Ivy League - Piccadilly - UK
(c) Cliff Richard (1967) (Cecil Sharp-version)
Recorded September 10, 1967
Released in 1991 on the next EP
Cliff Richard - We Should Be Together: Christmas E.P. (Vinyl) at Discogs
The tune which most people in the folk world sing seems to derive from the version collected in 1952 by Maud Karpeles and Pat Shaw from 81 year old Peter Jones from Bromsash, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.
Hereford and Gloucestershire 1952 – Peter Kennedy Archive
(Photograph) Peter Jones. Bromsash, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England 1952 - Peter Kennedy Collection - World and traditional music | British Library - Sounds
(c) Peter Jones (1952)
Recorded August 18, 1952
FTX-504 - THE BITTER WITHY - EARLY FOLK CAROLS
Various - The Folk Songs Of Britain Volume 9: Songs Of Ceremony (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs
In 1969 the Young Tradition recorded a version, which was derived from the 1952 Percy Jones version. But shortly after the recording the Young Tradition broke up and the record was never released until 1995.
(c) The Young Tradition (with Shirley and Dolly Collins) (1969) (as "The Holly Bears The Crown")
Recorded July 1969 at Decca Studios #3
The Young Tradition With Shirley And Dolly Collins* - The Holly Bears The Crown (CD, Album) at Discogs
The 1972 version by Steeleye Span also follows the 1952 Percy Jones version.
(c) Steeleye Span (1972)
Steeleye Span recorded "The Holly and the Ivy" in 1972 as the B-side of their hit single "Gaudete". It was re-released (with added Christmas Greetings) in November 1973, and the A-side Gaudete reached #14 as Steeleye's first outstanding chart success.
45cat - Steeleye Span - Gaudete / The Holly And The Ivy - Chrysalis - UK - CHS 2007
Steeleye Span - Gaudete (Vinyl) at Discogs
This 1973 version starts with special Christmas greetings from the band members.
This version with the greetings was reissued in 1981 on the Australian-only LP Recollections and in 1999 on the CD A Rare Collection 1972-1996.
The Holly and the Ivy (Roud 514)
(c) George Winston (1982) (Cecil Sharp-version)
Released on the millionselling album "Winter"
December (George Winston album) - Wikipedia
(c) Jon Anderson (1985) (Cecil Sharp-version)
Vinyl Album - Jon Anderson - 3 Ships - Elektra - USA
(c) Natalie Cole (1994) (Cecil Sharp version)
Title-song of Natalie's Christmas album.
(c) Judy Collins (1997) (Cecil Sharp-version)
Recorded live at the Biltmore Estate.
(c) Mediæval Bæbes (2003) (Cecil Sharp version)
Mistletoe and Wine (album) - Wikipedia
(c) Irish Rovers (2002) (as "The Holly Bears The Crown") (Percy Jones version)
(c) Kate Rusby (2008) (Percy Jones version)
Sweet Bells - Wikipedia
(c) Annie Lennox (2010) (Cecil Sharp-version)
CD Album - Annie Lennox - A Christmas Cornucopia - Island - Europe
In 2008 Loreena McKennitt wrote a new musical setting for "The Holly and the Ivy", which is on her 2008 album "A Midwinter Night's Dream"
(c) Loreena McKennitt (2008) (The Holly and the Ivy" music by Loreena McKennitt)
A Midwinter Night's Dream - Wikipedia
More cover-versions here:
Cover versions of The Holly and the Ivy written by [Traditional] | SecondHandSongs