A Real Gospel Song for Xmas

This is a Gospel song that’s not one according to the contemporary, degenerate pop style definition or even the slightly older, very loose “account of personal relationship” description but based on the fact that it tells the Gospel story.

Who Is He in Yonder Stall?
Benjamin Hanby (sometime in the 1860s)

Who is He in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?

’Tis the Lord! oh wondrous story!
’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!

Who is He in deep distress,
Fasting in the wilderness?

Who is He the people bless
For His words of gentleness?

Who is He to whom they bring
All the sick and sorrowing?

Who is He that stands and weeps
At the grave where Lazarus sleeps?

Who is He the gathering throng
Greet with loud triumphant song?

Lo! at midnight, who is He
Prays in dark Gethsemane?

Who is He on yonder tree
Dies in grief and agony?

Who is He who from the grave
Comes to succor, help, and save?

Who is He who from His throne
Rules through all the worlds alone?

Note that when I used this with choirs (including congregational “choirs”), I would routinely note and direct the singing of the chorus only after specific verses, depending on the season. Other variations on arrangement would generally be added, again depending on the season and my own preference (directorial prerogatives rule! *heh*).

Here’s a very good (very straight) performance from the Moody Bible Institute Choir, from sometime in the 1990s.


A fav, and so a re-post:

The song sung in the video below can be found here: Weihnachslieder: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The video includes an additional work, “Über die Geburt Jesu,” by Andreas Gryphius (11 October 1616 – 16 July 1664). The song sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the video (accompanied by Jörg Demus) is, “Es senkt sich hehr und leise die heil’ge Nacht herab” by Karl Heinrich Carsten Reinecke (1824-1910).

Über die Geburt Jesu
Andreas Gryphius

Nacht, mehr denn lichte Nacht! Nacht, lichter als der Tag,
Nacht, heller als die Sonn’, in der das Licht geboren,
Das Gott, der Licht; in Licht wohnhaftig, ihm erkoren:
O Nacht, die alle Nächt’ und Tage trotzen mag!
O freudenreiche Nacht, in welcher Ach und Klag
Und Finsternis, und was sich auf die Welt verschworen,
Und Furcht und Höllenangst und Schrecken war verloren!
Der Himmel bricht, doch fällt nunmehr kein Donnerschlag.
Der Zeit und Nächte schuf, ist diese Nacht ankommen
Und hat das Recht der Zeit und Fleisch an sich genommen
Und unser Fleisch und Zeit der Ewigkeit vermacht.
Der Jammer trübe Nacht, die schwarze Nacht der Sünden,
Des Grabes Dunkelheit muß durch die Nacht verschwinden.
Nacht, lichter als der Tag! Nacht, mehr denn lichte Nacht!

Karl Heinrich Carsten Reinecke

Es senkt sich hehr und leise die heil’ge Nacht herab,
die Nacht, die uns vor Zeiten der Welten Heiland gab;
und Orgelton und Glockenklang ertönen weit und breit
und bringen uns die Kunde: “Christ wurde uns geboren heut!”

Und Scharen sel’ger Kinder umstehn den Weihnachtsbaum,
der jetzt im Glanz der Kerzen verklärt manch schlichten Raum;
und in der Glocken Töne mischt Kindersang sich ein:
“Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehre und Frieden soll auf Erden sein!”

Groban Gripe

OK, so listening to Josh Groban singing “It Came Upon a Midnight CLear” again, just to peg what bugs me so about his performance of the tune. Generally decent vowells. Check. Pitches true. Mostly, check. Tempo, accompaniment, etc., OK. Check. So what bugs me? Ah, it’s his melodic variations that are Signature Groban but which add nothing to the piece.

If it’s unnecessary and adds no musical value, it should just not be done. Period. There. Groban Gripe finished.

Xmas Songs: “Mitt hjerte alltid vanker”

Despite my nearly lifelong love of Xmas music, including for many years at least six months of the year spent at least thinking about, planning, and preparing a Xmas program for one venue or another, AND having discovered a reason to explore Norwegian hymnody when I married my Wonder Woman, a true Nordic Princess, I first heard this song only a couple of years ago.


Some have described the tune and lyrics both as “melancholy,” but before you even hive a listen, I’d like to disabuse you of any such assessment. “Melancholy” should be reserved for those things which evoke “a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.” The music is definitely pensive in mood, but sad? Hardly. The lyrics? I’ll let you judge that.

In English (loosely, I would say, though I’m not a Norwegian/Danish speaker, although this was written by a Dane, it was at a time when the two tongues were even more closely similar than today, and it’s apparently scarcely sung in Denmark, while I’m told a Norwegian Xmas would scarcely be without it):

My heart will always wander
To where our Lord was born,
My thoughts will always go there
And take on their true form.
My longing does belong there,
With the treasure of my faith;
I never shall forget you,
O blessed Christmas night!

I’ll willingly spread branches
Of palms around your bed.
For you and you alone
I will gladly live and die.
Come, let my soul find joy
In this moment of delight:
To see you born right here,
Deep inside my loving heart.


Well, I said I’d let you be the judge, but really, there’s not a sad thought to be found anywhere in those lyrics. (I’d also probably make a couple of small word changes to make the English marry with the tune better, but that’s just being picky.)

Here, give the tune a listen. Pensive, but hardly, IMO, sad. It’s definitely one of my new favs.


Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker
(Traditional, Danish folk tune / H.A. Brorson)

Mitt hjerte alltid vanker
i Jesu føderom,
der samles mine tanker
som i sin hovedsum.
Der er min lengsel hjemme,
der har min tro sin skatt;
jeg kan deg aldri glemme
velsignet julenatt!

Akk, kom jeg opp vil lukke
mitt hjerte og mitt sinn
og full av lengsel sukke:
Kom, Jesus, dog herinn!
Det er ei fremmed bolig,
du har den selv jo kjøpt,
så skal du blive trolig
her i mitt hjerte svøpt.

Jeg gjerne palemgrene
vil om din krybbe strø,
for deg, for deg alene
jeg leve vil og dø.
Kom, la min sjel dog finne
sin rette gledes stund,
at du er født herinne
i hjertets dype grunn

Getting to be that time of the year, again.

Yep. This time next week I’ll be on my second day of irritating everyone around me with almost nonstop Xmas music.1 *heh* Oh, I’m adding to the nearly two days’ worth of nonstop Xmas playlists I have already, so at least folks will have plenty of variety to irritate ’em. 😉

Added so far this year: Another Canadian Brass Xmas album; a 2-hour “fireplace video” playlist featuring pop/Xian Xmas songs sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others (easy YouTube download, that one); And Winter Came (Enya–via Amazon Prime Music); A Family Christmas (The Piano Guys–Amazon Prime Music, again); Gregorian Christmas (APM);
Irish & Celtic Christmas Music: Folk Classics (APM); and, oh, about 20 other albums.

1Well, “almost nonstop” if I can get my lips fixed, since I have whistled tunes for years when apart from other instruments or playback devices. For the first time in almost six decades, my “whistling” capability seems to be broken. *shrugs* May have something to do with a low-grade infection I’ve been fighting for a while now, but I can’t get the same flexibility or range–or even fine tuning–I’ve been used to for almost all my life. The tinnitus has pretty well cut out playing other instruments, so whistling was about what I had left. Oh, well. . . so it goes.


Yes, that’s not a typo. The ridiculous memories that play themselves out on the stage of my mind oftentimes follow a kind of formal pattern delving deeper with every off-the-wall connection.


Oh, this: some strange mental wanderings led me down Mummery Lane today to. . . “The Moody Blues,” of all things.

Background: back in my “yout'” I was almost completely disinterested in Rock music, and in fact heard it as some sort of crap intruding into the background of my life, for the most part. Boring, predictable, poorly-conceived and executed, from what I heard. Junk “music” for the most part. YMMV, but that was my view as a youngster, and it’s mostly held through to today, except that, nowadays, the manufactured toxic pap that passes for Rock music is largely even less musical.

Now, note that “for the most part”. Every now and then an individual artist or group would do something interesting, musical, even good. Think “Chicago”. Some really interesting stuff there. But, “Moody Blues”?!? Yes. OK, so the vocals largely suck–their pitch matching, tonal quality, etc., were not all that great. They also had a problem common to a lot of Rock groups: “How do we end this song?” “I dunno. Let’s just fade it out, mmmK?” *sigh*

But crappy vocal production, lyrics that ranged from pedestrian to pompous to. . . interesting, and the all too common inability to find an end to an individual song aside, their albums were still musically interesting, mentally stimulating, enjoyable, not at all the same boring thing, again and again, with–maybe–some minor tempo variation thrown in. Maybe. Nope. The kind of things some Rock fans derided them for was a BIG plus in my ears.

*shrugs* Interesting.

*heh* I just realized I unconsciously mimicked the guitar part on one of the pieces from “On the Threshold of a Dream” in a piece I wrote back in 1994.

Continue reading “Mummeries”

In the Bleak Midwinter. . . again

Disclaimer: Yes, Dan Fogelberg’s voice was at best an indifferent instrument, and his breath control, etc., was not all that. . . polished, shall we say. But still. This is, despite all that and CRANHAM (not a fav tune), this is very definitely my favorite recording a solo performance of Christina Rossetti’s poem:

Hear that. He really sings the song.

Who Is He In Yonder Stall?

Unfortunately, the only recording of this I have ever found, in an arrangement closest to what I prefer, is really poor quality. There are many other recordings available, but most of them just give me a rash. *heh* This is the Moody Bible Institute choir and symphonic band sometime in the (very) late ’80s/early 90s:

Its a 7MB mp3 file, so it may take abit to buffer, depending on your connection and how you hold your mouth.

Meanwhile, here’s a brief clip from “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor”


And an instrumental of the tune, with Frank Houghton’s powerful words below:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest Man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenward by Thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest Man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what Thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship Thee.

— Frank Houghton (1894-1972)