Skip to comments.Top ten Carols and things you didn't know about them
Posted on 12/10/2007 10:37:26 AM PST by NYer
The carol, as a religious song for a particular season, dates back to the 13th century but it hit glory days during the next century gaining widespread popularity. Over the following hundred years the carol developed musically and as a literary form in its own right, but was silenced by the Reformation in England and replaced by the metrical Psalm. A resurgence of carols in the 18th century has helped them become the sine qua non of the Christmas season.
‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ was penned in 1739 by Charles Wesley, whose brother John founded the Methodist church.The original title was “Hark how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”, welkin meaning ‘the heavens’. Wesley is said to have thought of the hymn while listing to church bells one Christmas day. Originally set to slow and sombre music, Felix Mendelssohn composed the tune sung today in 1840 to commemorate Gutenberg’s printing press. The lyrics were adapted to ‘Hark the herald angels sing’ by William H Cummings in 1855, to fit Mendelssohn’s melody.
O Come All Ye Faithful, is popularly thought to have been written by a 13th-century saint. But the crescendoing carol, originally in Latin and entitled Adeste Fidelis, dates instead to 1743. It was written by John Francis Wade, a Roman Catholic who fled France during the Jacobean rebellion and worked as a music teacher in England. The carol was first translated into English in 1789 for use in the Protestant Church. There are almost 50 different English versions, the most well known was translated in 1841 by Frederick Oakeley an Anglican priest who wrote “Ye faithful, approach ye”. But after his conversion to Catholicism in 1845 Oakeley rewrote the opening lines as ‘O come all ye faithful / Joyfully triumphant.’
O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by Rev Phillips Brooks a Philidelphian vicar, after a horseback ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where he helped at Midnight Mass, in 1867. He wrote the following about the journey in 1865.
"I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Saviour's birth."
The tune ‘Forest Green’ was adapted for the carol by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Away in a Manger, the Nativity play favourite, was first printed anonymously in the Lutheran book, Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families in 1885. Verse three was added by John T McFarland, and the words were set to music composed by James Murray in Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses in 1887.
Silent Night has a disputed history. Traditionally the tale goes that Mohr and Gruber wrote it on Christmas Eve in Oberndorf, Austria when they found the church organ was eaten away by mice or rust, depending on which story you believe, and had to improvise with voices and a guitar. This charming account has been dispelled as folklore since the discovery of a manuscript that indicates Gruber wrote the score a few years after Mohr wrote the emotive lyrics in 1816. The carol apparently began its journey around the world when master organ builder Karl Mauracher, who had been working on the Oberndorf organ took a copy of it away with him. It is now translated into 150 languages. On Christmas Eve in 1915, from the trenches of World War One, the carol could apparently be heard coming from the German line.
Once in Royal David’s City was written in Hymns for Little Children by Mrs Cecil F. Alexander, the wife of the Bishop of Derry in 1848. The following year, Henry Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music.
While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night has an illustrious origin as the creation of Poet Laureate Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady in 1703 during the reign of Queen Anne. At that time only the Psalms were sung in the Anglican Church and Nahum and Tate were famous for paraphrasing them into rhyme to be sung. The melody of the carol comes from Handel’s opera ‘Siroe’.
In the Bleak Midwinter was written by poet Christina Rossetti for Scribner’s Monthly as their Christmas poem. There are many musical arrangements for the carol the most famous was composed by Gustav Holst in the early 20th century.
See Him Lying in a Bed of Straw is a relatively recent addition to the carol canon. Written by Michael Perry and arranged by Stephen Coates it’s a modern gospel carol that is becoming a classic.
Joy to the World is credited to Isaac Watts in 1719, who is known at the 'Father of English Hymnology'. The rousing music by Lowell Mason is said to have been inspired by Handel’s Messiah, in particular the refrain “And heaven and nature sing”.
Here are the top Carols being sung in churches across the country this year according to our poll.
Church of England
The Catholic Church in England and Wales Network and the Elim Pentecostal Church were unable to provide any details.
"Giselle" belongs on both sides of the Delibes period, which is why it doesn't rate the same acclaim as the Tchaikovsky scores.
Christmas Carols are not sung in Catholic Churches until Christmas Eve at twilight services!
The liturgical year has four weeks of advent prior to the Christmas celebration. We sing songs such as Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel during the beginning of December.
Jesus was born on Christmas Day as far as the liturgical calendar goes, and we celebrate his coming during the so-called “twelve days of Christmas” up until and including Epiphany on January 6th. That is when we sing Christmas Carols in church.
You are a doctor of music, perhaps?
When I've tried I usually get dizzy and have to sit down.
Click on “Publius” and you’ll know more than you wanted to know about me.
. . . to wild acclaim. Choirmaster and my husband hatched a scheme to record the concert from upstairs in the choir loft with one of those tiny little Sony digital recorders. Amazingly enough, it seems to have worked! So a CD may be available soon . . . .
well, that does explain it then. Are you a fan of the opera?
If you have perfect pitch, you don't even need to watch the ballet to know what Tchaikovsky's intent was.
It goes without saying that the more wine I have, the better I think I can hit that high note. :`)
I am a member of the Commissioning Club of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and I've been involved in the commissioning of 3 chamber works we premiered at our summer festival.
I applaud your knowledge and your talents. What wonderful, graceful interests you have.
It's a real curse, you have no idea how painful it is when folks are just a little bit off! And when something is transposed, and he's looking at the original score, it sends him into a tailspin.
My interests may be graceful, but I’m not. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
I ordinarily do not care for Mahler at all, but somebody gave me a recording of des Knabens Wunderhorn with Fischer-Diskau and Schwartzkopf, and darned if I don't like it a lot. Is it atypical of his music, or am I just prejudiced against Mahler's symphonies?
It’s a curse, all right. During my youthful church-going days I could hear that the congregation was anywhere from a quarter tone to a half tone off from the organ. Catholics neither sing loud nor do their organists play loud. (The Protestants knew how to sing!) The low volume on the organ caused the congregation to drift off in pitch during the hymn. It drove me nuts.
I took piano for about a million years, sort of quit in college, then took it back up recently when I had a Steinway fall in my lap (no, it didn't hurt much) and then got hold of a harpsichord. I fool around with the guitar and have sung in church choirs since I was 6. And last year my husband made me a deal that he would sing in the choir if I would ring handbells (they were short on people who read music). I'm enjoying it a whole lot more than I thought I would -- I have the top end, so am in charge of 6 bells and sometimes get a little harried, but it's fun and it's L-O-U-D!
You need to come to our joint. We sing LOUD . . . and while our music director doesn’t like to blow the congregation out of the building, he cranks it up enough to keep everybody on track. Then he blows them out of the building with the postlude . . . I didn’t know anything about the French composers to speak of until I got here, he did a Fulbright at Lyons and he’s a big fan of Vierne, Vidor, Franck, and so forth . . . but thank goodness (since I’m an ex-Episcopalian) he doesn’t neglect Byrd, Tallis, and Gibbons.
I started writing about the symphonies, but I quickly realized I was going to end up with an entry the length of a scholarly paper. I love the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 9th. The 6th and 7th leave me cold, and I have mixed feelings about the 8th in spite of the magnificent choral work.
I would recomend starting with the 1st and listening to it about 5 times to get the shape of the work. If you can, find the 5-movement version with the extra slow movement (Blumine) that Mahler removed at publication time. He quotes from Blumine extensively in the finale, so the 4-movement version doesn't quite add up.
From there, move to the 2nd, which is still my favorite. I could write an entire thread about that symphony and the cross-quoting from his lieder and the work of other composers that he uses as the musical version of literary allusion.
(Dangerous subject to get me started on.)
Lo! How a Rose e’er blooming.