Christmas Carols have been part of the tradition of Christmas probably as long as Christmas itself. I love this tradition. To conclude my 3-part celebration of my blog’s first Christmas, I’ve decided to pick some of my favorites. Before I begin, I will warn you–I’m not a fan of Frosty or Rudolph.
1) “Do You Hear What I Hear” Writers: Noel Regney (lyrics) and Gloria Shayne (music) in 1962. This song was actually written in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sadly, in an interview Shayne said they could never perform the song together because they were so concerned of the threat of nuclear war.
2) “Good King Wenceslas” Writer: J.M. Neale
This is based ont he story of St. Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia (907-35). Neale wrote this in 1853. It is based on the legend of the king.
3. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Writer: Rev. Charles Wesley
Wesley actualy wrote hymns for fifty years until his death in 1788. Charles had spent some time with the pioneer hymn writer, Rev. Isaac Watts (I’m getting to him later on), who inspired him to write. It should be noted that at the time this song was written, Wesley was somewhat disillusioned. Wesley was also the founder of Methodism.
4) “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
This song dates all the way to the Middle Ages. A melody composed in the 1800’s. It is based on antiphons sung in medieval churches.
5) “O Holy Night” Writers: J.S. Dwight and Adolphe Charles Adam) This song was actually initially frowned on by Church authorities (perhaps it’s the difficulty in singing and playing the song?) Despite this, it became popular anyway.
6) “Joy to the World” Writer: Isaac Watts
Watts was a famous hymnast for his time. Another Christmas song he wrote was “Hush My Dear and Slumber”. The song was written in honor of David. It was believed in Watts’ time, that God stopped singing when David died.
7) “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Writer: Phillips Brooks
Brooks was a professor at the Boston Latin School. He entered the seminary in 1859. In 1865, he planned a trip to Bethlehem, which inspired the song. He wrote it because he was deeply saddened by the Civil War.
8) “Away in a Manger”
Although attributed to Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, it was not written by him. It was actually collected by James R. Murray and was really “borrowed” from a Sunday School book. The melody came from the Scottish poem “Flow Gently, Sweet Afron”.
9) “Angels We Have Heard on High”
This song is sung to the tune “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” as arranged by Edward S. Barnes. Its origins are unknown.
10) “Silent Night” Writers: Fr. Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber
Mohr was an assistant pastor at the newly-built Church of St. Nicholas in Obendorf, Germany. The pipe organ for the church was broken, and a Christmas concert was coming. Fortunately, their organist, Gruber, was able to compose a song for guitar. This is the result. It is my favorite carol.
2 thoughts on “The Reason for the Singing”
Wow, I didn’t know they had guitars back then. Some if my favorites are Joy to the World and Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. There was one carol I really like about the Wise Men of the orient bringing gifts, but I can’t remember what it’s called. Keep up the good work! 🙂
That’s “We Three Kings” I actually have the music and plan on recording that one this weekend. I’m planning on making this an annual feature, so maybe I’ll explore that song next year. Silent Night was actually written in the 1800’s, so it’s really not all that old, compared to O Come Emmanuel.