Category Archives: Carols

A New Metrical Translation of “Maria Walks Amid the Thorn”

In a previous post I offered a literal translation of all seven stanzas of the German Advent/Christmas Carol “Maria Walked Amid the Thorn” (see www.jubalslyre.com/thoughts-on-maria-walks-amid-the-thorn). With this post I offer a new metrical translation of the carol. Interestingly, singing the full version makes the carol a song that can be sung at other points of the Church Year, including today, the Baptism of Our Lord. I had the privilege this morning of… Read More »

O Come, All Ye Faithful (SATB) – English or Latin

This setting of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is an attempt to musically portray a great victory parade  to see the Christ Child (see www.jubalslyre.com/thoughts-on-o-come-all-ye-faithful). The choral arrangement begins with a soloist inviting the faithful to join in a great, joyful, and triumphal procession to Bethlehem. The full choir joins by repeating the last part of the stanza, a lost tradition that is evident in early hymnals and choral arrangements of… Read More »

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (SATBdiv) – English or Latin

This setting of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” sets all seven verses of the hymn modulating into four keys while passing the melody from voice to voice before finally concluding with several sudden and surprising key changes that lead to what I call a “Picardy third on steroids” (i.e. a major chord built on the altered note of the E minor Picardy third). This motet is available with the standard… Read More »

Of the Father’s Love Begotten (SATBdiv) – English or Latin

This setting of “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is the second motet in a set entitled Three Latin Christmas Motets and is dedicated to the American Kantorei of St. Louis, Missouri. It musically intertwines two manifestations of the God incarnate: that which occurred with the birth of Christ and that which happens when believers observe the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The primary textual and musical element is the ancient, but… Read More »

The Paradoxes of “This Little Babe”

Many of you may be familiar with the great choral work “This Little Babe” from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The driving rhythm, the compelling tune with its unique canonic treatment, and the dramatic shift at the very end from a minor key to its parallel major all make for a memorable and powerful setting of the text (click here for a video). The text explores the paradoxes that came with the birth of Christ, with God becoming… Read More »

Thoughts on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

The beloved Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” began its long journey into our Christmas celebrations as a ten stanza poem entitled “Hymn for Christmas Day” by Reverend Charles Wesley (1707-88), younger brother of Rev. John Wesley (1703-91), the founder of Methodism. It was first published in Part 2 of their collection of poems entitled Hymns and Sacred Poems (London: William Strahan), 1739 (click here for the original text). As a… Read More »

Thoughts on “Maria Walks Amid the Thorn”

For the Ninth Day of Christmas, let us look at the wonderful but relatively unknown German Christmas carol “Maria Walks Amid the Thorn” (“Maria durch ein’n Dornwald ging”). It is one that I sang as part of several Christmas programs when I was a child, but have rarely heard since.  The carol was published as an Advent song in Maria von Trapp’s book Around the Year with the Trapp Family (New York: Pantheon Books Inc.,… Read More »

Thoughts on “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

While the text of the Latin Christmas carol “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is almost 2,000 years old having been penned only a few hundred years after the birth of Christ , “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is not even 275 years old. The text was written by John Francis Wade (c. 1711-86) during a time when Latin was the language of academia. Wade was a Catholic layman who fled… Read More »

Thoughts on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

The text of the popular Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a lyrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons, an ancient set of seven antiphons for the Magnificat (Song of Mary) sung by Christians at the Vespers services held on the last seven days before Christmas (December 17-23). Each of the O Antiphons expounds upon a name that the prophet Isaiah had given to the Messiah: 1. December 17: O Sapientia (O… Read More »

Thoughts on “O Holy Night”

Of all Christmas carols, “O Holy Night” has one of the most fascinating stories. It is a rather unlikely carol in that the poem was written by an avowed atheist (albeit one well-versed in Christian theology) and the tune composed by a practicing Jew who did not observe Christmas. It was first sung by a Parisian opera singer, but soon after church officials banned the song when it was discovered that the… Read More »