Notes on the Notes – December 24, 2019
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” (VU #60)
The original four verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful” were discovered in an eighteenth century Jacobean manuscript with John Francis Wade’s signature. At one time historians believed that Wade had simply discovered an ancient hymn by an unknown author, possibly St. Bonaventura, a thirteenth century Italian scholar. Further examination, however, has led many to believe that Wade wrote both the words and music of this hymn himself. The lyrics are a celebration of the birth of Jesus.
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest;
See the carol sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
See Pentatonix’s interpretation of the carol at: https://youtu.be/Mj7Pr42rliI
See the carol in worship at Westminster Abbey: https://youtu.be/l1wHyMR_SCA
Hear Frank Sinatra sing the carol at: https://youtu.be/NczzSYC-s10
“A Candle is Burning” (VU #6)
“A candle is burning, a flame warm and bright,
A candle of hope in December’s dark night.
While angels sing blessing from heaven’s starry sky,
Our hearts we prepare now for Jesus is nigh.
A candle is burning, a candle of peace,
A candle to signal that conflict must cease:
For Jesus is coming to show us the way;
A message of peace humbly laid in the hay.
A candle is burning, a candle of joy,
A candle to welcome brave Mary’s new boy.
Our hearts fill with wonder, and eyes light and glow
As joy brightens winter like sunshine on snow.
A candle is burning, a candle of love,
A candle to point us to heaven above.
A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth,
For Jesus is bringing God’s love to our earth.
We honour Messiah with Christ-candle’s flame,
Our Christmas Eve candles glad tidings proclaim.
O come, all you faithful, rejoice in this night,
As God comes among us, the Christian’s true light.”
As we light our Advent wreath we will sing the words written by Sandra Dean (1986) with music written for the carol “Away in a Manger” by James R. Murray (1887).
Hear an instrumental version of the tune at: https://youtu.be/gVWdAaNXg6c
“Away in a Manger” (VU #69)
“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky look down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with you there.“
This traditional children’s carol is an anonymous text which seems to have come from the German Lutheran community in Pennsylvania. The tune CRADLE SONG was published in an American collection of Christmas songs entitled Around the World with Christmas (1895).
Hear the song on harp at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rYc-XTYib4o
Hear the song on the piano at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vtW9TLjiPNs
Hear an instrumental of the song at: https://youtu.be/jLdPhWVrXHc
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” (VU #64)
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
The text for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), an Episcopal priest, Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia. He was inspired by visiting the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, he wrote the poem for his church and his organist, Lewis Redner, added the music. Redner’s tune, simply titled ST. LOUIS, is the tune used most often for this carol in the United States and Canada, but it may also be sung to the tune FOREST GREEN instead.
See Sarah McLachlan sing this carol at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyPMDD8fGeA
Sing along at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpHY3jU27dc
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” (VU #44)
“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, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.
For, lo! The days are hastening on by prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.”
‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ is about the message of peace that the angels proclaimed on the first Christmas, when Jesus Christ was born. The song looks forward to a time when people will respond to the angels by living in peace with God and each other, and likens doing so to offering the angels’ song back to them.
Edward Hamilton Sears, a Unitarian minister, wrote the text of this carol during a period of social and political turmoil in Europe and the United States. It was first published in Boston in 1849, but the message still rings true today. It was one of the first times that an American writer had penned words that would become a Christmas carol. The American composer Richard Storrs Willis, who had studied music with renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn in Germany, wrote a tune called ‘CAROL’ and adapted the words of Sears’ poem to that music about a decade after the poem was first published (1850).
See Celtic Woman perform the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYDa4Kht6Eo
Hear the carol sung by Julie Andrews at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwBajJ3ZFVo
Hear a contemporary version by Mercy Me at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVkEjepjsfo
Hear Chris Tomlin’s interpretation in his song “Midnight Clear (Love Song)” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4tGVUX3YqI
“Silent Night” (VU #67)
“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah,
Christ the Saviour is born, Christ the Saviour is born.
Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”
See Lindsey Stirling perform the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmvwWxzg3lc
See the Three Tenors at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjhVI4Q0Vfc
To hear the Carpenter’s version of the song, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJhA0CqMl0s
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (VU #48)
“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.
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all hi brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die;
Born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!”
The carol we now know as “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” did not start life as such, and required at least four people to bring it to its current form. Charles Wesley wrote the original words as a Christmas Day hymn and first published it in 1739, with ten four-line verses, rather than the longer eight-line verses with refrain which we have now.
The tune was composed by Felix Mendelssohn for his Festgesang, Op. 68. It was scored for male voices with brass accompaniment, for the Gutenberg Festival in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press. It was adapted into a hymn tune by William Hayman Cummings in 1856.
Hear Frank Sinatra sing at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GWFdFqLKZ4
“Joy to the World” (VU #59)
“Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing.”
The text for this carol is a paraphrase of Psalm 88:4-9. It was written by Isaac Watts and first published in his Psalms of David in 1719.
Enjoy this carol by:
George Fox University Music department: https://youtu.be/6oOwa0CWVVQ
Boys’ choir “Libera” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IH8A86FLs0
“Mary’s Boy Child” original video by Boney M!