“What Can I Give Him?”

While I very much like Gustav Holst’s tune, CRANHAM, I do not particularly like it sung to Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” but only, really, because of it’s (IMO, of course :-)) unsuitability to the last stanza of the poem. In fact, I’ve more often, over the years, heard the last stanza sung by itself as a simple chorus sung to other tunes. Apparently other musicians felt the same way about the CRANHAM/Bleak Midwinter marriage.

But, being me, I naturally found the other tunes dissatisfying as well, and so I wrote my own poor offering to meet the void I heard. You can judge for yourself whether the verse and tune mate well. As to whether I have embodied the sense of the verse, well, I can say with the Apostle Paul,

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)

This time, it’s not an audio file (though I have examples). No, this time the music posted is for those who can make some music of their own. Here, get out a piano, a quartet of music readers or your soprano recorder –*heh*– and play/sing along. Just CLICK on the graphic for the full size, then if you wish, RIGHT-CLICK and save it for printout (see permissions paragraph below):

What Can I Give Him

(Permission is granted for small group use of the above, including printing sufficient copies–up to 10; this license is for small group use only–for singers/players to sing/play along for amateur, non-profit performance. Copies may not be further distributed, may not be sold and must acknowledge my copyright. Any recordings made must have a copy submitted to me in mp3 format via email and may NOT be sold, exchanged or distributed without my knowledge or permission. Contact me via email–see my contact page–for any exceptions, or to answer any questions you may have. IOW, enjoy, but be ethical about it.)

“Silent Night”

Perhaps the mot-sung Christmas carol, this performance, again by “Celtic Woman” features two of my fav soloists from the group. Multiple favs? Yes: three. This performance features two: the soprano with the most consistently beautiful tone and vowels (Méav Ní Mhaolchatha), and the violinist (“fiddler” Máiréad Nesbitt). Lovely sounds, perfectly suited to this carol.

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
Jesum in Menschengestalt!
Jesum in Menschengestalt!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß,
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt!
Jesus die Völker der Welt!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß!
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
“Jesus der Retter ist da!”
“Jesus der Retter ist da!”

Continue reading ““Silent Night””

“In the First Light”

Twenty years ago, an album, “Glad: The Acapella [sic] Project” provided a major impetus in the resurgence of a cappella singing. Mind you, Glad had already experienced a good run as a Christian “band,” beginning in 1972, but this watershed album was the group’s real breakout. I can’t find it anywhere but as a used recording–and then only at Amazon.com as a cassette tape, so you’ll have to look for a CD at a used CD store, I imagine–but I did want to feature one cut from the album, because it is a seriously good Christmas song: “In the First Light.” If you find it to be as good as I do, perhaps you’ll look up (and purchase) other Glad projects.

Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor

Certainly this is one of the most powerful presentations of the Christmas story in brief song form. Chip Stam has this to say of this hymn:

Serving as Editorial Secretary for the China Inland Mission, Frank Houghton made a trip to China in 1934 to see first-hand the progress of the work. This hymn was written at a particularly difficult time in the history of the missions to China. Missionaries had been captured by the communist Red Army and released in poor health after over a year of suffering. Others had been captured never to be heard from again. In 1934 the young missionaries John and Betty Stam (my great aunt and uncle) were captured in Anhwei and beheaded . The news of these sorrows had reached the mission’s headquarters in Shanghai. Though this was a very dangerous time for both the Chinese Christians and the foreign missionaries, Frank Houghton decided he needed to begin a tour through the country to visit various missionary outposts. While traveling over the mountains of Szechwan, the powerful and comforting words of 2 Corinthians 8:9, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,” were transformed into this beautiful Christmas hymn.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
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 splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

Read the rest of the lyrics at Chip Stam’s 1996 WQOTW post.

“Lo, How a Rose”

One of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever, rich in imagry, beautiful marriage of tune and text. Sample the choral voices singing in German, then click on through on the link below to hear the rest beautifully sung by Kathleen Battle. Her voice can be heard in the full performance found here.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it,
the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to us a Savior,
when half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story
proclaimed by angels bright,
how Christ, the Lord of glory
was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
and in the manger they found him,
as angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere;
true man, yet very God,
from sin and death he saves us,
and lightens every load.

Continue reading ““Lo, How a Rose””

“Away in a Manger”

Another Christmas Alliance post.

Away in a manger,
no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus
lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky
looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,
asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing,
the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus,
no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever,
and love me, I pray!
Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care
And take us to heaven,
to Live with Thee there.

Much better tune than what this song is usually sung to throughout most of the US. The tempo the snippet below is played at is too fast for singing the song properly, but the tune’s beautiful and works much better with the lyrics when sung at a proper tempo~75-100bpm (max).

Continue reading ““Away in a Manger””

“Beautiful Savior”

It’s been a tradition for years in our home to isten to the St Olaf’s choirs Christmas concert on PBS (my Wonder Woman’s parent were alums, so it added a special lil something when we first began watching–long story). A highlight of the concert has always been the performance of “Beautiful Savor”. The performance embedded here is not by a St Olaf’s group. It’s an (as yet) unidentified all male chorus singing altered lyrics I’d not heard before. (See my note after the jump if you want).

Continue reading ““Beautiful Savior””

In the Bleak Midwinter/The First Noel

I’ve long been ambivalent about the Gustav Holst tune with Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” but only because it seemed jarring with the last verse (more on that another time), but as a piece of music–and for all but the last verse of the poem–I appreciate it greatly. Here’s “Celtic Woman” in an absolutely beautiful instrumental rendition of the Holst tune followed by a solo/choral performance of “The First Noel”. The lyrics are followed by the performance, as usual.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

The First Noel

The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

They looked 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.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

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

This star drew nigh to the northwest
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both Pause and stay
Right o’er the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

And… This version by Dan Fogelberg

In the Bleak Midwinter* – Dan Fogelberg

Ding Dong Merrily on High

As part of The Christmas Alliance, today’s offering is “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. This Christmas carol has been one of my favs since I first heard it played by The Canadian Brass. Before, I had always heard it sung way, way too slowly and its joyous nature had been buried in the inappropriate tempos. Do note that the Jon Schmidt (yes, him again :-)) rendition streamed below is NOT suitable as accompaniment for singing. For one thing, quite apart from changes in rhythms that would make singing along impractical, the actual tempo of the melody is still too slow, but the pulsing rhythms Schmidt has added move the piece as a whole ahead at a joyous pace. His treatment is similar in that regard to the John Darnell treatment of “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” I cited earlier this Advent season.

Ding dong merrily on high,
In heav’n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv’n with angel singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

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

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

North Pole Express (Ding Dong Merrily on High) – Jon Schmidt / French Carol

Again, if you liked the performance, please visit Jon Schmidt’s site and purchase a copy to take along with you “Over the river and through the woods… ”

And be sure to check the special lil present beyond the jump…

Continue reading “Ding Dong Merrily on High”