On this, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I thought you might enjoy the carol “Welcome Yole!” It is one of the few that mentions the Twelve Days of Christmas and its Feast Days specifically. The text is relatively simple enjoining us to celebrate Christmas, its Feast Days, and the New Year together. The most well-known setting is the second movement of A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten (1913-76). Below… Read More »
A new metrical translation of all six stanzas of “Silent Night” in their original order that can be sung to either the original melody or the melody commonly sung today. The translation better reflects the meaning of the original text, but also has the exact same meter in each stanza so that it can be sung easily to both melodies.
In 1994 Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort released an absolutely stunning recording of sacred music. In the previous years they had released three recordings: A Venetian Coronation, a recreation of a coronation that took place in Venice, Italy in 1595 (released 1990); Christmas Mass in Rome featuring the music of Palestrina (released 1993); and Venetian Vespers, a recreation of an evening service as it might have been celebrated at… Read More »
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is one of most popular musical works of all time. However, what are its origins? Interestingly, it has a connection to the Church Year and the Season of Advent. Let’s begin in the little village of Nazareth in the region of Galilee around the year 1 AD.
The scenes of the empty streets in our cities these days reminds me of the first verse of the Lamentations of Jeremiah written thousands of years ago: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people!” (Lamentations 1:1) These laments take on new meaning during this Coronavirus pandemic. Christians have also used these laments during Holy Week as they grieve over the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The… Read More »
What does pestilence have to do with the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”? Quite a bit, actually. Watching the news of the dangers, growth, and spread of the Coronavirus gives new meaning to the petition in the special Litany prayer in our hymnal asking God to protect us from “pestilence and famine.” Pestilence was nothing new hundreds of years ago. 1637 was a particularly difficult year for the… Read More »
For the Twelfth and last Day of Christmas and for the Feast of Epiphany let us examine the “Queen of Chorales,” “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (“Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”). Composed by the Reverend Philip Nicolai (1556-1608), it is often sung as an Epiphany hymn although it can be sung on other occasions as well. For this post, I simply wish to share two settings of this hymn by… Read More »
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 »
On the Tenth Day of Christmas, let us look at “While By My Sheep I Watched” (“Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht’”), another beautiful early German carol of unknown origins. It is characterized by macaronic Refrain that features an echo and concludes with the Latin phrase “Benedicamus Domino!” (“Let us bless the Lord!”). It was published as early as 1615 and then again in 1623 in the Kölner Gesangsbuch (Cologne Hymnbook). Below you… Read More »
The tune for the Christmas and New Year hymn “O Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly” comes from an infectiously joyous motet by Andreas Hammerschmidt (see video below). In his motet he places exclamations of “Alleluia!” before and after the stanzas of the poem by Christian Keimann (1607-62). Bach concluded Cantata 40 for The Second Sunday of Christmas with a stirring setting of Stanza 4 of this chorale (see link at bottom of page). To see the… Read More »