Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Little-known facts about well-known carols

The Times Online relays some background information on ten popular carols. I must confess — probably soon to the mockery of my beloved Britreaders — that I'm not sure I've ever heard of "In the Bleak Midwinter."

But my, it sounds like a jolly little tune. Doesn't it?


The IBEX Scribe said...

I am also ignorant of "In the Bleak Midwinter". I think I'll go look up the lyrics. Agreed, however, that it doesn't really conjure bright and happy images in my mind!

Jay said...

It's actually quite a beautiful song, and I'm from North Carolina, so it's not just your Britreaders you'll have to worry about. :)

Mesa Mike said...

Wait, where's the information on such classics as, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Jingle Bells", "Up on the Housetop", and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"??????

Something's missing.

DJP said...

Yeah, something's definitely missing.

Mesa Mike said...

Nothing gets you into the ol' spirit of the Winter Potlatch like a bunch of cheery songs with something missing.

rebecca said...

I love "In the Bleak Midwinter." But then I love Christina Rossetti's poetry.

I think I learned it growing up in Minnesota.

We usually sing it sometime during the Christmas season at my Baptist Church in Canada.

Terry Rayburn said...

Ditto on "In The Bleak Midwinter".

Also never heard of "Once In Royal David's City".

I admit to amazing ignorance on lots of things, but how is it possible that these are in the top 10 most sung?

Anyway, speaking of Brit friends, I am reminded of the astoundingly rich heritage in hymnody, not to mention Gospel-preaching itself, that we owe to the saints of those Isles.

And I say that with a wistful historical nostalgia in view of how secular they (and we in America) have become.

DJP said...

"Bleak Midwinter." "Minnesota."

Yep, that makes sense.

Rachael Starke said...

So - I was all ready to offer up my own classic American favorites as a counterpoint to the jollity of In the Bleak Midwinter.

But I saw that you specifically titled the post "Carols" rather than "Holiday Songs" and I was certain I'd get clowned for imprecision. Even Merriam-Webster Online defines a carol as a "popular song or ballad of religious joy", for Santa's sake.

But since Mesa Mike started it, where are the true American songs or ballads of religious joy such as:

Santa Baby

A Five Pound Box of Money

and (my personal favorite)

Mele Kalikimaka

bugblaster said...

In the Bleak Midwinter is one of my favourites.

DJP said...


Rachael Starke said...

And at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, our family's absolute favorite English Christmas Carol is All My Heart This Night Rejoices.

Favorite verse:

"Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat,
"Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed;
All you need
I will surely give you.""

There's an incredible version of it on John Rutter's album "Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity" (and I just noticed In the Bleak Midwinter is on it too!).

Not all the verses are on the Rutter version. Our theory is that because Rutter isn't a believer, he couldn't handle the conviction (although what he recorded is enough). But read all eleven verses here and see if you can think of a more truly gospel-saturated Christmas carol than that. And if you listen to the Rutter arrangement, see if you can do it without crying. We can't.

Prolly explains why it's not on The Times' list, or on rotation on our Sirius Christmas station. :(

bugblaster said...

Phil Keaggy's version. My Christmas present to you, DJP. May you have a bleak Holiday Season.

DJP said...

I'd say it's now a certainty.

RT said...

"In the Bleak Midwinter" is one of my favorites - in the setting by Gustav Holst. I think it is safe to assume it is sung in every Anglican church every Christmas season at least once, which is presumably both why it made the top ten and why DJP has never heard of it.

Jerry said...

"In the Bleak Midwinter" is my mother's favorite Christmas carol.

Of course, she is English, and she did grow up in the CofE.

Barbara said...

I'd never heard of it either, and so I went looking for it on youtube.



DJP said...

Say... and it shows a young RT, beginning at about 26 seconds, too!

candy said...

Yay Neil! Phil Keaggy is one of my favorite musicians.

For a really cool version of Once in Royal David's City, try and find Sufjan Steven's version.

Susan said...

Words by Christina Rossetti! A good version of the carol can be found on Stuart's Neill's GOD IN THE MANGER Christmas album (find it at www.ligonier.org).

Anonymous said...

Probably everyone has heard of the WW1 "Silent Night" singing across the lines. When I was in elementary school Mr. Cann and his dad...Mr. Cann, a couple of WW1 & 2 vets used to come every Nov. 11 to talk to us kids.
Mr. Cann the junior was a bugler and told of playing "Silent Night" on his bugle to accompany the Germans on the other side of the line.
Fascinating stuff when your 8 or 9 years old.

I've heard of "In the Bleak of Midwinter" although I've never heard it...my favourite is "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen".

Anonymous said...

... I admit it...I find it fascinating as a 41 year old...growing up is over-rated...

DLW said...

If you find recordings with hymns arranged by David Wilcocks you you will hear classic anglican arrangements with organ, full choir, orchestra and many will include glorious descants.

Once in Royal David's City was originally written as a childrens Christmas hymn. Sadly, today most adults struggle with singing this hymn.

It is well worth the sing if you can find an arrangement.

Hear are the words:

Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor, the scorned, the lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all his wondrous childhood,
he would honor and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.

Libbie said...

gracious, I'm having a slightly stunned moment. Fancy not knowing those. I love the imagery of 'frosty wind made moan', in In the Bleak Midwinter. Spend a snowy Christmas holed up in the Yorkshire countryside, and that is so what it's like.

You do all know 'Little Donkey', don't you? Has the world gone mad?

DJP said...

No, and Oh my, yes, respectively.

RT said...

"Once in Royal David's City" is my father's favorite carol - almost always the midnight Christmas Eve processional. I can't imagine Christmas without it. I also can't access youtube here so I am afraid I missed the no doubt impressive vision of my young self.