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Christmas Music, Part 17 – 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 hymnwriter 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:

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 16 – We Three Kings

we-three

“We Three Kings”, also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi”, is a Christmas carol written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who wrote both the lyrics and the music.

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

From Mannheim Steamroller, Chip Davis gives this song an “Arabian Nights” feel. A classic song that tells the story of the Gentiles who were quicker to recognize the significance of Christ’s birth than were His own people. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 15 – The First Noel

first-noel

The First Nowell (also written The First Noël) is a traditional classical English carol, most likely from the 18th century, although possibly earlier.

The word Noel comes from the French word Noël meaning “Christmas”, from the Latin word natalis “birthday”.

The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale.

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Refrain

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They lookèd up and saw a star
Shining in the east, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.

Refrain

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

Refrain

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
Over Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Refrain

Then did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered it them for to see,
And found the Babe in poverty.

Refrain

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon the knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Refrain

Between an ox stall and an ass,
This Child truly there He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in a manger, among the hay.

Refrain

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Refrain

If we in our time shall do well,
We shall be free from death and hell;
For God hath prepared for us all
A resting place in general.

Refrain

The First Noel

The University of Utah Singers perform “The First Noel” arr. by Dan Forrest live in concert, December 11th & 12th, 2009 in Libby Gardner concert hall under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 13 – The Alfred Burt Carols

Alfred Burt Carols

I could have turned the Alfred Burt Carols into the next 15 parts of this series but I decided that was a bit too easy on me!

I love this story – it’s a wonderful family tradition from the Burt family.

Starting in 1922, Alfred Burt’s father created a Christmas card for family members and parishioners. On these cards were original Christmas carols, with both the words and music by the Reverend Bates Burt. For the family Christmas card in 1942, Bates asked his son to write the music for that year’s carol, “Christmas Cometh Caroling.”

From then on, Alfred would write the music for the family’s Christmas cards, and the “Alfred Burt carols” were born.

More about the Burt family and the Christmas Carol tradition: http://www.alfredburtcarols.com/

Alfred Burt’s Carols:

  1. “Christmas Cometh Caroling” (1942)
  2. “Jesu Parvule” (1943)
  3. “What Are the Signs” (1944)
  4. “Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind” (1945)
  5. “All on A Christmas Morning” (1946)
  6. “Nigh Bethlehem” (1947)
  7. “Christ in the Stranger’s Guise” (1948)
  8. “Sleep Baby Mine” (1949)
  9. “This Is Christmas” (also known as “Bright, Bright, the Holly Berries”) (1950)
  10. “Some Children See Him” (1951)
  11. “Come, Dear Children” (1952)
  12. “O, Hearken Ye” (1953)
  13. “Caroling Caroling” (1954)
  14. “We’ll Dress the House” (1954)
  15. “The Star Carol” (1954)

Burt finished the last of his carols, “The Star Carol”, on February 5, 1954. He died less than 24 hours later, at the age of 33.

One of the best known of these today is Caroling Caroling (lyrics by the church organist at his father’s church, Wihla Hutson)

Caroling Caroling

The Salt Lake Vocal Artists perform 2 carols; “Caroling, Caroling” and “We’ll Dress the House” by Alfred Burt live in concert on December 17, 2011 in Holy Family Catholic Church, South Ogden, Utah under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred.

What’s your Christmas tradition?

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Christmas Music, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 12 – Still, Still, Still

Still, Still, Still

Still, Still, Still is an Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby. In German its first line is “Still, still, still, weil’s Kindlein schlafen will!” (Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep!)

The melody is a folk tune (authorship unknown) from the State of Salzburg. The tune appeared for the first time in 1865 in a folksong collection of Maria Vinzenz Süß (1802-1868), founder of the Salzburg Museum; it has changed slightly over the years but remains attributed to G. Götsch.

The words, which run to six verses in German, describe the peace of the infant Jesus and his mother as they sleep. There are various English translations.  This is one version:

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.
The night is peaceful all around you,
Close your eyes,
Let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.

Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number,
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2015 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 11 – Ding Dong! Merrily On High

Ding Dong! Merrily On High

Ding Dong! Merrily On High

“Ding Dong Merrily on High” first appeared as a secular dance tune known as “le branle de l’Official” in a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519–1593). The lyrics are from English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934), and it was first published in 1924 in his The Cambridge Carol-Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter, And Other Seasons. Woodward had an interest in church bell ringing, which no doubt helped inspire this carol

Ding dong! merrily on high
In heav’n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv’n with Angel singing.
REFRAIN

Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!
Gloria,
Hosanna in excelsis!
E’en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And “Io, io, io!”
By priest and people sungen.
REFRAIN

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.
REFRAIN

Note: “Swungen” and “Sungen” in the second verse are archaic English verb forms.

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Christmas Music, Holidays, Posts of Interest

 

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Christmas Music, Part 10 – O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel is the mid-19th century translation by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin of the Ecclesiastical Latin text “Veni, veni, Emmanuel”.

The text is based on the Biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that states that God will give Israel a sign that will be called Emmanuel (Literally: God with us). Matthew 1:23 states fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

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