Christmas Music: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

In 1850, Richard Storrs Willis, a composer who trained under Felix Mendelssohn, wrote the melody called “Carol.” This melody is most often set in the key of B-flat major in a six-eight time signature. “Carol” is the most widely known tune to the song in the United States.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

 

Another version:

 

Christmas Music: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

hark

Charles Wesley (1707-1788),  the younger brother of John Wesley wrote the words to this Christmas Carol.

Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the people who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. Hark the Herald Angels Sing appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred Poems.

Wesley envisioned this being sung to the same tune as his hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,  and in some hymnals it is included along with the more popular version.

This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in “The Church Hymn Book” (New York and Chicago, USA, 1872).

To celebrate the invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

And, of course, no one can do it better than The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 

Christmas Music: Carol of the Bells

Carol of the Bells

Carol of the Bells was composed by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych (1877-1921) in 1916. Originally titled Shchedryk, this Ukrainian folk song is sometimes called Ukrainian Bell Carol. “Shchedryk” which was associated with the coming New Year, originally celebrated in April.

Leontovych used this tune in 1904 along with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky to create the version that everyone knows today. It gained popularity during the 1920s and 1930s, and was introduced to an even wider audience when it was used in the movie “Home Alone”.

It was first performed in the Ukraine on the night of January 13, 1916, on the Julian calendar this is considered New Year’s Eve. In the United States the song was first performed on October 5, 1921 at Carnegie Hall.

This video is from the Christmas special of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, presented at the BYU channel. The orchestra and choir produce a very beautiful sound.

Not the standard version –

The O’Connor Music Studio has several versions of this Christmas Carol available for loan, including this version from the Mannheim Steamroller:

 

Christmas Music: I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a Christmas carol based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The song tells of the narrator’s despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men”. The carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among mankind.

This version is done by Casting Crowns.  I chose it because the Pender choir sang this on Christmas Eve with past-Associate Pastor Dan Elmore singing the solo…and I fell in love with this version.

As seen on 2008 TBN Christmas special. “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” is available on Casting Crowns’ Christmas album, Peace On Earth.

More traditionally, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Christmas Music: Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
CHORUS:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song? ChorusCome to Bethlehem and see
Him Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King. ChorusSee Him in a manger laid
Jesus Lord of heaven and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth. Chorus

This is a traditional French carol (Les Anges dans nos Campagnes) that was translated into English by Bishop James Chadwick.

This carol commemorates the story of the birth of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of Luke, in which shepherds outside Bethlehem encounter a multitude of angels singing and praising the newborn child.

In 2009, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster collaborated to produce a Christmas album with a number of other music legends. This is “Angels We Have Heard on High” with choir and orchestra.

The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, David Archuleta, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir get together to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Christmas Music: Joy To The World

Joy_To_The_World-Antioch

Joy To The World

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King.

Isaac Watts wrote the words to “Joy to the World” in 1719, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The hymn originally glorified Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating His first coming. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel. The name “Antioch” is generally used for the hymn tune.

As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

There are versions of Joy to the World available at the O’Connor Music Studio for any level of playing, starting with Pre-Reading, all the way up through Advanced and duets.

Christmas Music, Part 24 – O Holy Night

o-holy-night

“O Holy Night” (“Cantique de Noël”) is a well-known Christmas carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau (1808–1877).

Cappeau, a wine merchant and poet, had been asked by a parish priest to write a Christmas poem. Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music, created a singing edition based on Cappeau’s French text in 1855.

In both the French original and in the two familiar English versions of the carol, the text reflects on the birth of Jesus and of mankind’s redemption.
O Holy Night

O Holy Night sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the King’s Singers