Merry Christmas, everyone! Today’s Christmas Day hymn is Break Forth o Beauteous Heavenly Light by Johann Sebastian Bach. sung by the Roche Sisters on their We Three Kings album.
A song for Christmas Eve—O Holy Night. This carol was written in 1847 by a French wine merchant, Placide Cappeau, and set to music in 1855 by John Sullivan Dwight. The third verse is my favorite, and very timely as we head into a very uncertain 2017 with so much hatred and and sabre-rattling. This, after all, is at the heart of Christmas: “Truly He taught us to love one another, his law is love and his Gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
The version that I chose is from Jon Anderson’s 3 Ships album from 1985, which has been in my Christmas rotation since my oldest brother introduced it to me way back then. Jon is joined by Sandra Crouch for the third, and powerful, verse.
“Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
the mighty Gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead”.
The beautiful Huron Carol is sung here by the Cambridge Singers.
Tonight’s Christmas song is a hymn that I remember from my childhood. Here Emmylou Harris lends her lovely voice to Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
On the longest night, the night of the Winter Solstice, here’s a song for the first day of winter. Asleep the Snow Came Flying by Tim Story, is from the Windham Hill album, a Winter’s Solstice IV.
The possibility of a white Christmas is in the forecast, so I thought this hauntingly beautiful piece by Loreena McKennitt would be appropriate. Fittingly called Snow, the lyrics evoke the experience of being surrounded by snow fall: the softness, the muted sounds, the whiteness.
“Then all is silent and the snow falls, settling soft and slow.
The evening deepens and the grey
folds closer, earth and sky.
The world seems shrouded, far away.
Its noises sleep, and I,
as secret as yon buried stream,
plod dumbly on and dream.”
The horizon doesn’t look so bright as we look toward the New Year, so this carol seems appropriate today. “Brightest and Best of the Sons of the morning, dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid.” There are many melodies that can be used with these lyrics; this version by Kathy Mattea is a beautiful minor tune.
Few people can do chill like Chris Botti and his December album is worth adding to your holiday collection. I hope you find some time this week to sit in the darkness with only the glow of the Christmas tree and relax to this mellow version of The Christmas Song.
We are four days from the winter solstice, and overnight the earth turned white and ice coated the shrubs and birdfeeders. So it seems most appropriate that today’s Christmas tune is In the Bleak Midwinter. The words are those of English poet Christina Rosetti. There are hundreds of recordings of this song, but I chose Sarah McLachlan’s version from her Wintersong album.