2019 Christmas Countdown: Johnny Marks

Who? You might say.

Johnny Marks  (November 10, 1909 – September 3, 1985) was an American songwriter. Although he was Jewish, he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (a hit for Gene Autry and others)

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (a hit for Brenda Lee)

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (recorded by the Quinto Sisters and later by Burl Ives)

“Silver and Gold” (for Burl Ives)

“Run Rudolph Run” (recorded by Chuck Berry)

 

Enjoy!

2019 Christmas Countdown: Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas

“Good King Wenceslas” is a popular Christmas carol that tells a story of Good King Wenceslas braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (the second day of Christmas, December 26). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

In 1853, English hymn writer John Mason Neale wrote the “Wenceslas” lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853. Neales’ lyrics were set to a tune based on a 13th century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my foteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

A traditional choir:

Jane Seymour and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

The Mannheim Steamroller version:

Christmas Countdown: Johnny Marks

Who? You might say.

Johnny Marks  (November 10, 1909 – September 3, 1985) was an American songwriter. Although he was Jewish, he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (a hit for Gene Autry and others)

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (a hit for Brenda Lee)

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (recorded by the Quinto Sisters and later by Burl Ives)

“Silver and Gold” (for Burl Ives)

“Run Rudolph Run” (recorded by Chuck Berry)

 

Enjoy!

Christmas Countdown: Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas

“Good King Wenceslas” is a popular Christmas carol that tells a story of Good King Wenceslas braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (the second day of Christmas, December 26). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

In 1853, English hymn writer John Mason Neale wrote the “Wenceslas” lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853. Neales’ lyrics were set to a tune based on a 13th century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my foteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

A traditional choir:

Jane Seymour and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

The Mannheim Steamroller version:

March 21 in Music History

. 1685 ~ Johann Sebastian Bach, German composer birthday (Old Style)
Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor was featured in the Walt Disney movie Fantasia and the new Fantasia 2000
Listen to Bach’s music
Read quotes by and about Bach
More information about Bach
Grammy winner

. 1839 ~ Modeste Mussorgsky, Russian composer
More information about Mussorgsky

. 1869 ~ Florenz Ziegfeld, Producer, Ziegfeld Follies ~ annual variety shows famous for the Ziegfeld Girls from 1907 to the 1930s
More information about Ziegfeld

. 1882 ~ Bascom (Lamar) Lunsford, Appalachian folk songwriter, started the first folk music festival in 1928 ~ annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival at Asheville, N.C. He was responsible for the formation of the National Clogging and Hoedown Council.

. 1921 ~ Arthur Grumiaux, Belgian violinist

. 1921 ~ Astor Piazzolla, Argentinian composer
More information about Piazzolla

. 1934 ~ Franz Schreker, Austrian composer and conductor, died

. 1935 ~ Erich Kunzel, American orchestra conductor. Called the “Prince of Pops” by the Chicago Tribune, he performed with a number of leading pops and symphony orchestras, especially the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, which he led for 32 years.

. 1936 ~ Alexander Glazunov died.  He was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor.

. 1939 ~ God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin back in 1918 as a tribute by a successful immigrant to his adopted country, was recorded by Kate Smith for Victor Records on this day in 1939. Ms. Smith first introduced the song on Armistice Day, November 11, 1938, at the New York World’s Fair. It was a fitting tribute to its composer, who gave all royalties from the very popular and emotional song to the Boy Scouts. The song became Kate Smith’s second signature after When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain and the second national anthem of the United States of America. On several occasions, it has even been suggested that the U.S. Congress enact a bill changing the national anthem to God Bless America.

. 1941 ~ Singer Paula Kelly joined Glenn Miller’s band. Her husband, also a part of the Miller organization, was one of the four singing Modernaires.

. 1955 ~ NBC-TV presented the first “Colgate Comedy Hour”. The show was designed to stop the Sunday popularity of Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” on CBS.  Gordon MacRae, the Gabor sisters and Mama Gabor, in addition to a host of singers and dancers were in the opening program with the gangway of the nation’s biggest ship, the “S.S. United States” as the stage. In addition to MacRae, other hosts of the “Colgate Comedy Hour” included: Fred Allen, Donald O’Connor, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante.

. 1961 ~ The Beatles made their debut in an appearance at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where they became regulars in a matter of months.

. 1963 ~ A year after opening in the Broadway show, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, Elliott Gould and Barbra Streisand tied the matrimonial knot.

. 1964 ~ Singer Judy Collins made her debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City and established herself “in the front rank of American balladeers.” She would first hit the Top 40 in 1968 with Both Sides Now, a Joni Mitchell song. Her versions of Amazing Grace and Send In the Clowns also became classics.

. 1970 ~ The Beatles established a new record. Let It Be entered the Billboard chart at number six. This was the highest debuting position ever for a record. Let It Be reached number two a week later and made it to the top spot on April 11, overshadowing Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water.

. 1991 ~ Leo Fender, the inventor of The Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars died from Parkinson’s disease. He started mass producing solid body electric guitars in the late 40s and when he sold his guitar company in 1965, sales were in excess of $40 million a year.

. 1998 ~ Galina Ulanova, the leading ballerina at the Bolshoi Theater for nearly two decades, died aged 88.

. 2000 ~ Jean Howard, a Ziegfeld girl-turned-starlet who became known as a legendary Hollywood hostess and photographer, died at the age of 89. She wasn’t interested in becoming a film star. Instead, she came to wield power as favorite Hollywood hostess and photographer, turning her portraits into the books “Jean Howard’s Hollywood” in 1989 and “Travels With Cole Porter” in 1991.

. 2005 ~ Legendary cabaret singer Bobby Short, an icon of old-world style who played for more than three decades at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, died at the age of 80.