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AO - Enjoying the Music of Christmas - AmblesideOnline.org

AmblesideOnline: Enjoying the Music of Christmas

(Thanksgiving readings, Christmas/New Year's stories and poems, and Christmas music. NEW: a selection of Christmas carols from around the world.)


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Some suggestions about Christmas CD's to purchase are given below. For even more Christmas carols, see Doug Anderson and Richard Jordan's The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, a huge clearinghouse of public domain Christmas music. Their FAQ says, "The purpose of this site is to preserve the rich history of carols and hymns which might otherwise be lost."


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Print out AO's collection of 40 Christmas Carols click here.


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1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel -- a favorite of several of us on the Advisory, and, in our opinion, deserved of much more usage. A note of warning: to our dismay we found that the majority of the midi files on the internet for this carol are, well . . (ahem) . . . wretched. Plodding. Tedious. But here's a nice version on YouTube from the Choir of Clare College.

The carol truly needs a sparkling choir or a velvety mezzo-soprano for full effect. Lynn's suggestion? Jessye Norman's luscious CD, Christmastide in which you get both -- Jessye (who is nothing less than a force of nature) and the bell-toned American Boychoir. Spine tingling stuff. (This album also includes Jessye and the boys singing Christina Rossetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter," which often leaves me sniffing and reaching for a hankie.) Wendi's favorite is on Mannheim Steamroller's A Fresh Aire Christmas 1988, where it is sung in the original Latin (Veni Veni). Chip Davis thought he was being innovative by giving it a medieval, Gregorian chant flavor, but when he went looking for somebody to translate the words into Latin, he learned that it was originally sung in Latin -- as a Gregorian chant, no less.

Here are the lyrics:

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 Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

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 over 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, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse's tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;v All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


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2. Silent Night in the foreign language your children study: 93 languages here: http://silentnight.web.za/translate/


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3. Joy To The World -- ALL the verses!

Most people know this carol, but few know that the tune is largely derived from Handel's Messiah, specifically borrowing themes and melodies from Lift Up Your Heads and Comfort Ye My People. For extra credit, listen to these portions of The Messiah with your children and see if they can hear the themes (and to think that modern recording artists think "sampling" is a new thing!).

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Merry caroling!

Lynn Bruce and Wendi Capehart, on behalf of the AmblesideOnline Advisory


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Shepherds, Rejoice! Lift Up Your Eyes - Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), Recommended tune: "Boston," by William Billings (1746-1800). View this hymn on YouTube. To hear the tune "Boston" at cyberhymnal, you'll have to click on the alternate midi offered, as it's not the tune you'll hear playing when the page opens. A clearer midi of Boston plays automatically when you open this site.


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I imagine Charlotte Mason herself might have enjoyed this . . .

Every Christmas Eve since 1928, the BBC has broadcast the "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" from King's College, Cambridge. In the US, the classical NPR stations broadcast this, albeit at an inconvenient time, though some rebroadcast it in the evening. It consists of Scripture readings telling the history of salvation, From Genesis to the first chapter of the Gospel of John, interspersed with relevant carols. Minnesota Public Radio broadcasts this via webstream on the morning of Christmas Eve, and sometimes re-broadcasts later on Christmas day. Read more here. WDAV usually broadcasts this on the web on the morning of Dec 24. King's College Cambridge also has a website where you may read a brief history of the service. View the BBC's broadcast of the service on YouTube from 2000 or 2010.


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Lynn Bruce was asked which were her favorite Christmas CD's. Her response:

My favorites of what I own:

The Hampton String Quartet - What If Mozart Wrote, 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' and What If Mozart Wrote 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'. This string quartet specializes in Baroque arrangements of well-known carols and popular songs. The Christmas CD's sound just like our carols as if written by Mozart - perfect Christmas tea music! But also great background music for singing along.

The Holly and the Ivy: Carols from Clare College - Conducted by John Rutter. I had to buy this after Chuck Colson wrote a series of Breakpoints about Christians needing to revive the rich carol traditions of the early church, and specifically drew almost all his examples from this CD. Why have we let these beautiful carols fall away? This disk is just gorgeous - these are the true carols of the season.

A Scottish Christmas - Bonnie Rideout - Rideout recorded our all-time favorite children's CD, "Gimme Elbow Room," a CD I think even Charlotte Mason would have liked. The Christmas CD shows Bonnie to be a serious Celtic musician, and it's so luscious that I play it all year long. Dazzling fiddling and stirring bagpipes. Standard carols and several Celtic traditional carols, too.

Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening - Angels' Glory. Kathleen is a soprano with a clear, sparkling, refreshing tone. Christopher is the world's most gifted classical guitarist - you will not believe that he is playing by himself on many of these tracks, as he can make one instrument sound like a quartet. Both of these artists are professing Christians, and both proclaim that they exercise their gifts for the Lord's glory alone. Quite a range here - the 19 tracks (yes, 19!) include everything from popular songs like "Mary, Did You Know?" to several spirituals (Battle is African American) to Gesu Bambino and other classical pieces, to standards like Silent Night. But all of the songs are about Jesus - what a refreshing thing to find on a Christmas CD these days. Two incredible talents, and together they are perfect.

And, of course...

Jessye Norman - Christmastide. I think this is my all-time favorite. Jessye just rocks my boat. When she sings full force, it seems like the music is coming out of the sky behind her. My friend says when we all get to heaven, Jessye will lead the choir. <G> The carols chosen here are wonderful - many of the them lesser-recorded sacred rarities. She is accompanied by an orchestra and the American Boychoir.

Oldies I love -

Julie Andrews - she recorded carols with an orchestra conducted by Andre Previn back in the sixties, in her prime. The arrangements are wonderful. Just terrific - if you can find it, buy it! (Greatest Christmas Songs or Christmas With Julie Andrews)

Christmas records by The Andrews Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Bing Crosby (White Christmas), and Nat King Cole (Christmas Favorites).... ahhhh. Makes me want to curl up under the tree and sneak candy canes like I did when I was little. Better find these now before they are completely obsolete!

Lynn, Dec 2002


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Other Christmas CD's:
O Holy Night - Luciano Pavarotti
Ancient Noels - Maggie Sansome
Wolcum Yule: Celtic and British Songs and Carols - Anonymous 4
A Christmas Celtic Sojourn
Comfort and Joy: A Christmas Celtic Sojourn
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: King's College
Handel's Messiah: John Eliot Gardiner - "one of the best versions of Handel's Messiah."
Handel's Messiah: Christopher Hogwood - "This is the Messiah that started it all--the first period instrument performance recorded with a choir of men and boys."
Bach: Christmas Oratorio (also by King's College Choir)
Carols from Trinity
A Festival Of Carols - Robert Shaw Chorale
That Christmas Feeling (includes Ave Maria, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, The Lord's Prayer)
Something a little more modern: James Taylor At Christmas
Light of the Stable - Emmylou Harris "Beautiful Christmas music with a touch of bluegrass"



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December 2002