Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mark 14:43-52. Friends Flee

The young man who ran away naked leaving his garment behind is always assumed to be John Mark, the author of the gospel, but he was no different from the rest. Verse 50 tells us that "everyone deserted him and fled."

We would have been no different.

Some of us would have been like Judas, betraying our friend for money. Many people have tried to justify what Judas did. Some say Jesus disappointed him; that the suffering servant was not his idea of a Messiah. He wanted a rebellion; an armed insurrection like that of Judas Macabees. Some say he wanted a negotiation with the Chief Priests. But the Bible says he was a thief. The Bible says that Satan entered into Him. The Bible finds in him no redeeming features. This was a man who had sat at Jesus' feet. He had heard the sermon on the mount. He had witnessed the miracles. Jesus had walked on water before him, turned water into wine, stilled the storm, made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. Jesus had raised the dead. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Jesus tells us that some would not believe even if someone came back from the dead. Much as we wish that everybody could be saved, we cannot force it. Some people think that Hell will only be peopled by Hitler, Stalin and Judas Iscariot. Would that it were so. We should have no illusions; there will be people in Hell who have heard Scripture preached faithfully, who have 'followed' Jesus, who have made an apparent 'commitment' to His cause.

Some of us would have been like Peter. We would have jumped in violently. There is a certain attraction to foolhardy resistance. Mark doesn't give us Jesus's admonition, but Matthew does, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword." Jesus could have called on twelve legions of angels, but he had acquiesced to the father's will. Whatever did Peter think was going on in Gethsemane? Some of us have Peter's temperament. We act without thinking. Every time we open our mouth we put our foot in it. We see our selves as men of action when all we are is impulsive. There are times for the sword; Paul tells us that rulers do not bear the sword for nothing; he is God's agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. I should think long and hard before I decided that I was God's agent of wrath.

But I guess most of us are like Mark. We are likely to flee from danger and if anything we have clothed ourselves in will slow us down then we will leave it behind. There are some things we should happily leave behind - wealth and possessions, by all means. But we must cling to the cross and never leave that behind.

But there is consolation. To fall away is not to lose your salvation. Nor does it disqualify you from service. It isn't the last word. Mark was in the habit of losing his nerve. Paul and Barnabas fell out over him in Acts 15:37-40 because Mark had deserted them at Pamphyllia, and though Barnabas wanted to give him another chance, Paul wouldn't trust him. Yet in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul, in prison near the end of his life writes, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." Mark is restored in the last.

So may we be, despite our weakness.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Gavrilo Princip is a name that always comes to mind at times like this. They say that assassination is the severest form of censorship, but it seldom changes minds. It does suffer from the law of unintended consequences. Whatever his feelings for the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, I doubt that Gavrilo had the First World War as one of his desired aims.

Benazir Bhutto joins an illustrious group of political martyrs that includes John and Robert Kennedy, Indira, Rajiv and Mahatma Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.

None of these assassinations extinguished the cause that the murdered on stood for. If anything is likely from the assassination of Miss Bhutto, it is that her People's Party will sweep the board in the forthcoming elections.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


From Anatole Kaletsky in today's Times:

Voters will always distrust their government and the media will always criticise whatever it does. This scepticism is what has made Britain the world’s most enduring democracy; it is what makes individualism and eccentricity the proudest features of the British national character; it is the reason why Britain will never live comfortably in the EU and why British pedestrians will never wait for the green man before they cross a road.

We delight in eccentricity. Our National heroes are Basil Fawlty, Eddie the Eagle, Mr Bean and David Brent. Our National game is cricket. Featured on today's Today program was an item on our chances at Ping-pong in the 2012 Olympics. In the middle of winter the supporters of our northernmost football team, Newcastle United, go to matches bare-chested. Yesterday, at almost every coastal town, the local mayor took a dip in the frozen ocean. Whether it is donning paper wings and attempting to fly off the pier at Bognor Regis or dancing in a white uniform with bells on your knees while waving a handkerchief, eccentricity is de rigeur.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

This is one of the few Carols that I know off by heart, and it follows Away in a manger and Once in Royal David’s City in popularity with children, probably because they empathize with the page boy. Yet the pundits hate it. “Ponderous moral doggerel imposed upon a light-hearted spring dance measure,” says one and “hope that, with the present wealth of carols for Christmas, ‘Good King Wenceslas’ may gradually pass into disuse, and the tune be restored to spring-time” says another, “this only shows how ridiculous they are” says a third.

Well! I say “Boo!” to the Bah! Humbug! School of Christmas Criticism. This is a fun example of what Christmas is really about - giving. And it’s really a Boxing Day Carol, so we can leave all the shepherds and Angels alone until next year.

Boxing Day, for ignorant Americans, is the day after Christmas Day, and the feast day of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. In England (though not in Scotland), in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia it is a public holiday. There are many traditions about how it all started and if you ‘Google' it you will find five or six, but they all surround the idea of charitable giving. The most plausible concerns the servants in the great houses of England who had to work on Christmas Day. They were given the next day off to spend with their families. Early on Boxing Day morning the servants lined up to receive a box of leftovers from the feast. It became a tradition to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to the poor. Nowadays, these include the postman, the paper-boy, the gardener and garbage collector, and the ‘Christmas Box’ is a fiver or two in an envelope.

Good King Wenceslas is exactly within that tradition.

In 1853, John Mason Neale chose Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to exemplify generosity. For a tune, Neale picked up a spring carol, originally sung with the Latin text ‘Tempus adest floridum’ or ‘Spring has unwrapped her flowers’. This original spring tune was first published in 1582 in a collection of Swedish church and school songs.

Wenceslas (or more properly Václav) was the Duke of Bohemia who was murdered in 929 (or possibly 935) AD by his wicked younger brother, Boleslav. As the song indicates, he was a good, honest, and strongly principled man. The song expresses his high moral character in describing King Wenceslas braving a fierce storm in order to help feed a poor neighbour. Wenceslas believed that his Christian faith needed to be put into action in practical ways. Wenceslas was brought up with a strong Christian faith by his grandmother St. Ludmila. Wenceslas’ own mother, Drahomira, however, joined forces with an anti-Christian group that murdered Wenceslas’ grandmother, and seized power in Bohemia. Two years later in 922 AD, the evil Drahomira was deposed, and Good King Wenceslas became the ruler. He became Bohemia’s most famous martyr and patron saint. His picture appeared on Bohemian coins, and the Crown of Wenceslas became the symbol of Czech independence.

Why does Good King Wenceslas have such a deep and lasting impact on its hearers? The language is strange, but being strange it is memorable. Even the “fu-el’/cru-el’” rhyme is unforgettable. The phrase ‘Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer’ really speaks to all of us, as does the remedy: ‘In His master's steps he trod’. We can do nothing without the aid of our Master.

Who was John Mason Neale? He was born in London, his parents being Revd. Cornelius Neale and Susanna Neale, daughter of John Mason Good. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was affected by the Oxford Movement and helped to found the Cambridge Camden Society (afterwards known as the Ecclesiological Society). Though he took Holy Orders in 1841, ill-health prevented his settling in England until 1846, when he became warden of Sackville College, an alms-house at East Grinstead, an appointment which he held till his death.

In 1854 Neale co-founded the Society of Saint Margaret, an order of women in the Anglican Church dedicated to nursing the sick. Many Anglicans in his day, however, were very suspicious of anything suggestive of Roman Catholicism. Only nine years earlier, John Henry Newman had encouraged Romish practices in the Anglican Church, and had ended up joining the Romanists himself. This encouraged the suspicion that anyone like Neale was an agent of the Vatican, assigned to destroy the Anglican Church by subverting it from within. Once Neale was attacked and mauled at a funeral of one of the Sisters. From time to time unruly crowds threatened to stone him or to burn his house. He received no honour or preferment in England, and his doctorate was bestowed by Trinity College (Connecticut). However, his basic goodness eventually won the confidence of many who had fiercely opposed him, and the Sisterhood of St. Margaret survived and prospered.

Neale was strongly high church in his sympathies, and had to endure a good deal of opposition, including a fourteen years' inhibition by his bishop. Neale translated the Eastern liturgies into English, and wrote a mystical and devotional commentary on the Psalms. However, he is best known as a hymn writer and translator, having enriched English hymnody with many ancient and mediaeval hymns translated from Latin and Greek. More than anyone else, he made English-speaking congregations aware of the centuries-old tradition of Latin, Greek, Russian, and Syrian hymns. His works include:
All Glory, Laud, and Honour, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. Neale died on August 6, 1866.

The tune is to "Tempus Adest Floridum" ("It is time for flowering"), a 13th-century spring carol, first published in the Swedish/Finnish Piae Cantiones, 1582. The carol is also found in Carmina Burana as CB 142. In 1853, G. J. R. Gordon, Her Majesty's Envoy and Minister at Stockholm, gave a rare copy of the 1582 edition of Piae Cantiones to Neale. The book was entirely unknown in England at that time.
Neale translated some of the carols and hymns, and in 1853, he published 12 carols in Carols for Christmas-tide (with music from Piae Cantiones). In 1854, he published 12 more in Carols for Easter-tide.

Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech people and the Czech Republic. His feast day is September 28. Since the year 2000, this day is a public holiday in the Czech Republic, celebrated as Czech Statehood Day. In his honour, a statue of Wenceslaus clad in armour on horseback stands in Prague's Václavské náměstí (Wenceslaus Square).

O Holy Night.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

For the fifth year running O Holy Night has been voted Britain’s favorite Christmas carol. Apparently, its latest moment of fame came when it was sung by runner-up Rhydian Roberts in the reality show ‘X Factor’ final.
The full list of the nation’s favorite carols goes as follows:
1 O Holy Night
2 Silent Night
3 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
4 In The Bleak Midwinter – Darke
5 O Come, All Ye Faithful
6 Once In Royal David’s City
7 In The Bleak Midwinter – Holst
8 O Come, O Come Emmanuel
9 O Little Town Of Bethlehem
10 Coventry Carol

The strange and fascinating story of "O Holy Night" began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, It became an anthem for a social revolution in America and it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

On January 10, 1847, in succession to Father Maurice Gilles who had died on Oct. 18, 1846, Father Eugene Nicolas Petitjean was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Roquemaure. Roquemaure, a small village of fewer than 5000 souls, is located in South East France at the heart of the vineyards of one of the five southernmost vintages of the Côtes du Rhône. Father Petitjean asked a local poet, Placide Cappeau, for a Christmas song. Cappeau was the commissionaire of wines in this small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance and something of a free-thinker, Placide would not have been everyone’s first choice to write a song for the Christmas mass – but perhaps Petitjean, a newcomer, did not know that. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church. During a business trip to Paris on contemplating the first few chapters of the book of Luke he composed his "Cantique de Noel" between Macon and Dijon. The singer, Madame Laurey, was a friend of the poet and had worked with the composer Adolphe Adam, and she asked him to write some music for the hymn so that she could perform it. Though a Jew for whom the birth of Christ must have seemed a heretical concept, he accepted the commission and she performed the song for the first time just three weeks later in the college of Roquemaure during midnight mass on December 25, 1847, accompanied by at the organ by Mrs. Blairac.

Minuit, chrétiens,
C’est l’heure solennelle
Où l’Homme Dieu descendit jusqu’à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple à genoux,
Attends ta délivrance!
Noël! Noël!
Voici le Rédempteur!
Noël! Noël!
Voici le Rédempteur!

Le Rédempteur
A brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un Frère où n’était qu’un esclave;
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaˆnait le fer.
Qui Lui dira notre reconnaissance?
C’est pour nous tous qu’Il naˆt,
Qu’Il souffre et meurt.
Peuple debout,
Chante ta délivrance!
Noël! Noël!
Chantons le Rédempteur!
Noël! Noël!
Chantons le Rédempteur!

Placide Cappeau was born on October 25, 1808 at 8 pm at Roquemaure (Gard). He was the son of Mathieu Cappeau, cooper, and Agathe Louise Martinet. At first he succeeded his father in the family business (operating some vines and a cooperage), but this became difficult because of a childhood accident when he had lost most of his right hand and he turned to working with his brain. At the age of eight, playing with a firearm with one of his friends, a man named Brignon, his hand had been so damaged that it required partial amputation. With the financial assistance of Mr. Brignon, who paid for half of his tuition fees, Placide, attended first a community school in Nimes and then the Royal College of Avignon where despite his disability he won first prize for drawing in 1825. With a Bachelor of Letters in his pocket, he studied law in Paris and obtained a degree in 1831.

But Placide was a socialist and a republican and anti-clerical to boot. French history in the Nineteenth Century is complicated, but within two months of the first performance of Minuit, Chrétiens, the French king had been forced to abdicate and the Second Republic had been established. Nicknamed the "Bourgeois Monarch", King Louis Philippe sat at the head of a moderately liberal state controlled mainly by educated elites. The year 1846 saw a financial crisis and bad harvests, and the following year an economic depression. A poor railroad system hindered aid efforts, and the peasant rebellions that resulted were forcefully crushed. Perhaps a third of Paris was on the dole. "Dangerous" writers proliferated such as Louis Blanc ("The right to work") and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon ("Property is theft!", "God is evil"); secret societies such as the Saint-Simonians sprang up.

Because political gatherings and demonstrations were outlawed in France, activists began to hold a series of fund-raising banquets , the Campagne des banquets, to circumvent this restriction and provide a legal outlet for popular criticism of the regime. The campaign began in July 1847, and lasted until February 1848, Louis Philippe forbade such banquets. As a result, the people revolted, helping to unite the efforts of the popular Republicans and the liberal Orleanists, who turned their back on Louis-Philippe.

Barricades were erected, and fighting broke out between the citizens and the municipal guards. On February 23rd, Prime Minister Guizot resigned. Upon hearing the news of Guizot's resignation, a large crowd gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An officer ordered the crowd not to pass, but people in the front of the crowd were being pushed by the rear. The officer ordered his men to fix bayonets, probably wishing to avoid shooting. However, in what is widely regarded as an accident, a soldier discharged his musket, which resulted in the rest of the soldiers firing into the crowd. Fifty two people were killed.

Paris was soon a barricaded city. Omnibuses were turned into barricades and thousands of trees were felled. Fires were set, and angry citizens began converging on the royal palace. King Louis Philippe abdicated and fled to England.

Alas for Placide, the Second Republic was a failure. Universal male suffrage was decalared, but as usual the people elected the wrong man. As usual, the left was beset by internal dissension and as usual for France, the people called for a strong man. The strong man was another Napoleon, this time Napoleon III. Napoleon played a skillful game, pitting one faction against another and after four years he was declared Emperor, and the Second Republic was at an end; the Second Empire begun.

With Placide Cappeau having walked away from the church and became a part of the socialist movement, and church leaders having discovered that Adolphe Adams was a Jew, the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion."

Cappeau died at age 69 on Aug. 8, 1877 at Roquemaure.

Adolphe Adam must be best remembered for his music for the ballet Giselle. Born in Paris in 1803, he was the son of Louis Adam, a native of Alsace, and founder of the French school of piano playing. Louis Adam taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1797 until 1842. Adolphe Adam had varied schooling, eventually as a boarder in a parental attempt to induce better application. After private coaching, however, he was able in 1819 to enter the organ class of Benoist at the Conservatoire. Nevertheless, as he later admitted, his chief ability at this time was in improvisation. He failed to win the expected Grand Prix de Rome, taking instead the deuxième Grand Prix in 1825 with his setting of Ariane à Naxos. He eked out a living playing triangle at the Gymnase Dramatique. As a composer he began to provide material for vaudevilles. In the 1830s he rapidly made a name for himself and in 1832 was invited to London to provide music for a military spectacle at Covent Garden. It was in 1841 in Paris that Adam enjoyed what has proved his most lasting success with the music for the ballet Giselle ou Les Wilis. After quarreling with the head of the Opera he revived a plan to establish a second opera house in Paris for younger composers. The new theatre of the Opéra-National opened in 1847, after Adam had raised a considerable loan for the project. The time was inopportune. The political disturbances of 1848 led to the closure of the house and to Adam's financial ruin. He was now obliged to earn what living he could from music criticism to meet his immediate needs, but this was not the end of his career as a composer. In 1849, the year of his father’s death, he was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire and he continued to compose for the theatre until his death. By 1853 he had paid off his debts but continued working until his sudden death in 1856. In his posthumously published autobiographical sketches he admitted that it was his work as a musician that was his sole passion and pleasure, without which he would have died of boredom. Adolphe Adam is buried there in the Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmartre Cemetery) in Paris.

Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it, and a decade later a reclusive American writer brought it to a whole new audience halfway around the world.

Not only did this American writer--John Sullivan Dwight--feel that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "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 text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South. Published in his magazine, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War.

Born May 13, 1813, in Boston, Dwight graduated from Harvard College in 1832. He then began, with some ambivalence, preparation for the Unitarian ministry at Harvard Divinity School and graduated in 1836. During his years at the Divinity School, the "new views" of Transcendentalism were beginning to coalesce into a potent critique of Unitarian theology and social ethics. Dwight responded enthusiastically to Ralph Waldo Emerson's regrounding of Unitarian theology in Platonic and Kantian idealism, and to his call for an innovative, non-conformist refashioning of social life.

Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church which was taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among Transcendentalists' core beliefs was an ideal spiritual state that 'transcends' the physical and empirical and is only realized through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions.
Prominent Transcendentalists included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, , the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne. For a time, many of the Transedentalists, among them Dwight, lived at the Brook Farm Transcendentalist utopian commune. Like most Transcendentalists, Dwight was fascinated with German culture, especially the poetry and aesthetic theories of Goethe and Schiller and the symphonies of Beethoven.

Dwight served as director of the Brook Farm School and wrote a regular column on music for their journal The Harbinger. He also taught music and organized musical and theatrical events, the heart of the commune's social life. He embraced the cause of "Association" fervently, and in an 1844 lecture, expounded the movement's constant theme: "Development by harmonious relations, based on the supposition that every individual nature is pre-adapted to Universal Unity." Dwight found a strong consonance between the commune's social cause and his passion for advancing music as essential to human education and expression.

Brook Farm died of debt and dissension in 1847. Dwight settled with several Brook Farmers in a cooperative house in Boston and began to try to piece together a career in musical journalism. In 1852, with some support from the Harvard Musical Association, he founded Dwight's Journal of Music. It became the most influential musical publication of 19th century America. His labors on the Journal occupied him for the rest of his life.

He became the foremost musical critic in America. He largely established Beethoven's reputation in America and he supported the great Classic composers, Bach, Mozart and Handel, while steadfastly opposing the modern works of Wagner, Berlioz and Rubinstein.

In 1855 he translated from the French, the carol O Holy Night. It is not a strict translation. The third verse would be something like this: The Liberator has broken every shackle. The earth is free and heaven is open. He sees a brother who there was nothing but a slave. Love now unites those who had been chained together by iron. By making it more overtly abolitionist as: Chains shall He break for the slave is out brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease. Dwight was making a political statement and indulging in what would now be termed ‘realized eschatology’ Dwight died in 1893.

Adam had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden--a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison--did something long thought impossible. Although Marconi had previously made radio broadcasts of Morse code, using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle--hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle. After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, so did the broadcast--but not before music had found a new medium that would take it around the world.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches all over the world. From the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This song--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who was a socialist and republican as well as opposed to the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior and broadcast as an electronic experiment--has become one of the most beautiful and popular pieces of music ever created.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the bleak midwinter

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,
A 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

Christina Rossetti wrote this poem before 1872 in response to a request from the magazine, Scribner's Monthly, for a Christmas poem. It was published posthumously in Rossetti's Poetic Works in 1904 and appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906.

Although Christmas was linked by the 4th century church with 25th December as part of a strategy to Christianize various mid-winter solstice pagan festivals, there is no biblical association of the birth of Jesus with mid-winter, nor indeed, would such an inclement climate have existed in Palestine. Nevertheless, the deep winter of England emphasizes the magnitude of the God/Man’s condescension; from the Glory of Heaven to a lonely stable in abject poverty. The English word “bleak” captures His destination so well.

Rossetti came from a well known literary and artistic family. Her father, Gabriele Rossetti, in political exile in England, was a professor of Italian at King’s College in London. Her brothers Dante Gabriel and William Michael were among the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which gave birth to the 19th Century English art movement of the same name. The Pre-Raphaelites, for whom Christina was a frequent model, also included Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Ford Madox Brown, John Everett Millais, William Morris, John Ruskin and James McNeill Whistler. Her family friends included Charles Dodgson (better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll), author of Alice in Wonderland. She was deeply religious, so much so that she refused the proposal of marriage from a man she loved deeply and thereafter became prone to melancholy.

The text of this Christmas poem has been set to music many times, the two most famous settings being composed by Gustav Holst and Harold Edwin Darke in the early 20th century. Most congregations sing the Holst version which specifically composed for congregational singing in 1905. Throughout his career Holst advocated writing music for the masses, as well as for the musically astute; therefore, much of the composer's repertoire including hymns, music for military band, and numerous songs was written with the amateur musician in mind. Many of these "lighter" compositions have stood the test of time because even though they are made of relatively simple stuff, they still bear the mark of Holst's careful and loving craftsmanship.

Around the beginning of 1905, a group of clergymen created a committee with the purpose of updating the hymn book called Hymns Ancient and Modern. This hymnal was considered to be old-fashioned, so new hymns were to be added. Percy Dearmer, a fellow clergyman and professor of Ecclesiastical Art at King's College in London, was named chairman of this committee. Ralph Vaughan Williams was chosen to be the music editor, whose task was to make all final decisions on which hymns would be added. Vaughan Williams was skeptical of this duty, but accepted the post upon being promised that the work required would only take two months. In actuality, the project wasn't completed until two years later. With Holst aiding in the editing process, Vaughan Williams looked to include "the finest hymn tunes in the world." Folk tunes and traditional songs would be added, as well as songs by earlier English composers, such as Thomas Tallis. English composers of the time were invited by Vaughan Williams to create new hymns for the updated hymnal. It was soon evident that the addendum would be comparable in size to the original hymnal, so it was decided that an entirely new hymn book would be produced, under the title of The English Hymnal. Holst composed three original hymns based on previously gathered folk tunes for this new volume. In the Bleak Midwinter is set to text by Christina Rossetti and the folk tune used is known as "Cranham," named after the town in which it was collected. It is believed that Holst actually composed the hymn while staying in this village for a short amount of time, and a cottage in the village was eventually named Midwinter Cottage.

Gustav Holst (21 September 1874 - 25 May 1934), the well known English composer, was a music teacher for over 20 years. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets. Having studied at the Royal College of Music in London, his early work was influenced by Ravel, Grieg, Richard Strauss, and fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams, but most of his music is highly original, with influences from Hindu spiritualism and English folk tunes. Holst's music (he wrote almost 200 catalogued compositions, including orchestral suites, operas, ballets, concertos, choral hymns, and songs) is well known for unconventional use of metre and haunting melodies.

He became music master at St Paul's Girls' School in 1905 and also director of music at Morley College in 1907, continuing in both posts until retirement. He was the brother of Hollywood actor Ernest Cossart, and father of the composer and conductor Imogen Holst, who wrote a biography of her father in 1938.

Holst was born in 1874 at 4 Clarence Road, Cheltenham, to a family of Swedish extraction (by way of Latvia and Russia). The house was opened as a museum of Holst's life and times in 1974. He was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys.

Holst's grandfather, Gustavus von Holst of Riga, Latvia, a composer of elegant harp music, moved to England, becoming a notable harp teacher. Holst's father Adolph Holst, an organist, pianist, and choirmaster, taught piano lessons and gave recitals; and his English mother, Clara von Holst, who died when Gustav was eight, was a singer. As a frail child whose early recollections were musical, Holst had been taught to play piano and violin, and began composing when he was about twelve.
He died of complications following stomach surgery, in London, on May 25, 1934. His ashes were interred at Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex, with Bishop George Bell giving the memorial oration at the funeral.

The Darke version, with its beautiful and delicate organ accompaniment, was written in 1911 and has also gained popularity among choirs in recent years, after the King's College Choir included it on its radio broadcasts of the Nine Lessons and Carols. (Incidentally, Darke served as conductor of the choir during World War II.)

Harold Darke was born 29 October 1888 in London and died 28 November 1976, in Cambridge. He received his formal training at the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, and at Oxford. He had a world-wide reputation as one of the finest organists and choristers of his era. He held positions at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead (1906) and subsequently at St. James, Paddington.

During his fifty years (1916-66) as organist at St. Michael's, Cornhill (London), his weekly recitals, which included the entire organ works of Bach, made him a city institution. In 1919 he founded the Saint Michael's Singers and remained its conductor until 1966. In his choral festivals he presented not only established masterworks, but championed the little-known music of contemporary composers such as Vaughan Williams and Charles Hubert Parry. Darke's numerous compositions are mostly, but by no means exclusively, choral and organ works. They are generally serious and reflective in character.

Monday, December 24, 2007

O Come All Ye Faithful!

O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant,
O Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels;


O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.
God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, Begotten not created. Chorus

Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, In the highest; Chorus

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesu, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing. Chorus

Scripture references Luke 2:11-15, John 1:14

Frederick Oakeley, D.D., who translated Wade’s original four stanzas was born September 5, 1802, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. His father was Charles Oakeley, governor of Madras. Oakeley attended Christ Church, Oxford, and took Holy Orders with the Church of England in 1828. By 1839, he was the incumbent of Margaret Street Chapel, London, was the prebendary at Lichfield Cathedral, and was preaching at Whitehall. It was at Margaret Chapel in 1841 that Rev. Oakeley translated the Latin hymn Adeste Fideles into English. Originally, the first line was "Ye faithful, approach ye." It wasn't published at that time, but its use in the Margaret Chapel lead to widespread popularity.

Subsequently his interest in the Oxford Movement forced him to resign his appointments with the English Church. In 1845, he followed John H. Newman in converting to Roman Catholicism. He rewrote the opening of the hymn to read:
O come, all ye faithful,
Joyfully triumphant.

He became canon at Westminster (Catholic) Cathedral in 1852. For many years he worked among the poor of Westminster. His poetry collections include Lyra Liturgica: Reflections in Verse for Holy Days and Seasons (1865) He died January 29, 1880, at Islington, and was buried in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London.
The Oxford Movement was an affiliation of High Church Anglicans, most of whom were members of the University of Oxford, who sought to demonstrate that the Church of England was a direct descendant of the Christian church established by the Apostles. It was also known as the Tractarian Movement after its series of publications Tracts for the Times (1833–1841); the Tractarians were also called Puseyites (usually disparagingly) after one of their leaders, Edward Bouverie Pusey, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford. Other prominent Tractarians included John Henry Newman, a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford and vicar of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin; John Keble; Archdeacon Henry Edward Manning; Richard Hurrell Froude; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Robert Wilberforce; Isaac Williams; and Sir William Palmer

The Oxford Movement was attacked for being a mere Romanising tendency, but it began to have an influence on the theory and practice of Anglicanism. It resulted in the establishment of Anglican religious orders, both of men and women, and an emphasis on liturgy and ceremony. Its effects were so widespread that the Eucharist gradually became more central to worship, vestments became common, and a considerable number of Catholic practices were introduced into worship. Inevitably this led to controversy which often ended up in court. Partly because bishops refused to give livings to Tractarian priests many of them ended up working in the slums, giving rise to a critique of social policy, local and national. The establishment of the Christian Social Union which debated issues such as the just wage, the system of property renting, infant mortality and industrial conditions, and to which a number of bishops were members, was one of the results.

The extra four Latin verses were translated by William Brooke

See how the shepherds, Summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither Bend our hearts' oblations Chorus

Child, for us sinners Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, Loving us so dearly? Chorus

Lo! Star-led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him frankincense and gold and myrrh;
We to the Christ-child, Bring our hearts oblations: Chorus

There shall we see Him, His Eternal Father's
Everlasting Brightness now veiled under flesh;
God shall we find there, a Babe in infant clothing;

This last verse has not come into common usage in English, neither have subsequent translations by Owen West

Everlasting splendor of the [Eternal] Father
We shall see in a garment of flesh;
God, infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Chorus

Or Paul Hodges.

Father eternal, Thine eternal splendour
Now veiled in flesh our eyes shall see:
God as an infant, swaddling clothes about him.

William Thomas Brooke was born January 9, 1848. He was educated at the City of London School and after entering commercial life, he became interested in hymnology, learning much from Daniel Sedgwick. Originally a Baptist, Brooke converted to the Church of England in 1867.

Brooke’s four new verses were inserted these after the first two verses of the Oakeley translation. This new version was printed in the Altar Hymnal in 1884. Later, the last two verses from Oakeley were appended as the last two verses of the combined version. This became the basis of the version printed in The English Hymnal (1906), which has become the standard reprinting of this carol.
In his lifetime, Brooke contributed hymns to many Victorian periodicals. One of his other works was titled Churchman's Manual of Private and Family Devotion (1882). He died in 1917.

During the 19th century the melody was set to many texts, including "How Firm A Foundation" (Ira Sankey, et al, eds., Gospel Hymns: Nos. 1 to 6 Complete, New York: Biglow & Main, 1894, #613).

The hymn has been translated into at least 125 languages and is one of the most popular of all Christmas hymns.

The refrain “O come let us adore Him.” is sometimes sung at extempore Brethren-style communion services; a strange departure from its Anglo-Catholic origins.

In secular life the tune is best known for the refrain “Why are we waiting” sung all over the English speaking world by those stuck in a queue.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Adeste Fideles

Adeste Fideles laeti triumphantes,
Veníte, veníte in Bethlehem.
Natum vidéte, Regem Angelorum:

Veníte adoremus,
Veníte adoremus
Veníte adoremus Dóminum

Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine,
gestant puellae viscera
Deum verum, genitum non factum:

Cantet nunc io chorus Angelórum
cantet nunc aula caelestium:
Gloria in excelsis Deo:

Ergo qui natus, die hodierna
Jesu, tibi sit glória
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum:

New traditions accumulate at Christmas like lichen on an old log (a Yule log in this instance). I was watching a television program about the elements of a modern ‘traditional’ Christmas. Among the top ten experiences were Slade, Wizard, the Pogues and Band Aid, all singing their Christmas hits together with various television ‘Christmas specials’. Television recordings make it possible to talk about the ‘immortal’ Morecambe and Wise’ even though they have been dead for years.

It was ever thus. One of the ways to make a document seem old (apart from singeing it over an open fire) is to write it in Latin. At various times, the lyrics of Adeste Fideles were attributed to St. Bonaventura, the 13th century Italian scholar and others, including the Portuguese, the Germans, the Spanish, and the Cistercian order of monks, but it is now clear that the author was an eighteenth Century Englishman, John Frances Wade. To discover how he came to write them, we have to delve into history.

It starts with John Wycliffe (1320-84) a English churchman and protégée of John of Gaunt, the head of the House of Lancaster and the son, uncle and father of kings. Wycliffe believed that all Christians should have access to the Bible in the vernacular. He also believed that in temporal things the King is above the Pope. His fundamental belief was that the Church should be poor, as in the days of the apostles. He felt that Latin was one of the means by which the Pope exerted his power over the people. Wycliffe is called “the Morning Star of the reformation” and he certainly heraded the centuries of strife that followed.

In England the Reformation seems all tied up with a King who had a fancy for young women. Perhaps, on a human level, that’s part of it, but it is all tied up with the need to produce a male heir and the struggle for independence from the yoke of Rome. A succession of fiercely partisan Catholic and Protestant rulers was interrupted by Elizabeth who wanted “no window into men’s souls” but nevertheless accrued enemies like Phillip II of Spain who were powerfully Catholic. Domestically, her greatest threat was her cousin Mary Stuart who lost her head to plotting.

The childless Queen eventually made way for Mary’s son, James who was famous for the Authorized version of the Bible, a plot by Catholics to blow up Parliament and him with it and an inordinate hatred of tobacco. He was called the ‘wisest fool in Christendom’ and was a very nasty man.

James’s son Charles I was a closet Catholic and it got him decapitated. Though his enemies were extreme Protestants, they would have winked at his religion were it not for his arrogant assumption that he was divinely appointed and could do no wrong. He believed that the King’s word was law; they believed that the Law was King.. The Restoration of the monarchy after Cromwell’s death illustrated the people’s taste for wine women and song, and the second Charles gave them the ‘bread and circuses’ they demanded. His brother, the second James, was every bit his father’s child, and once again this brand of arrogance deposed a king. The politicians put his daughter, Mary, on the throne, but power lay in the hands of her Dutch Protestant husband, William III. James raised a Catholic army that was defeated in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne and then retreated to France where he sat and sulked at the expense of a French king, who couldn’t give a fig whether England was Catholic or Protestant, as long as it was weak and divided.

But James had produced a male heir (the story that he was a ringer brought into the bedchamber in a warming pan is a fun piece of fiction). In 1715, James Edward Stuart, soon to be called the Old Pretender, attempted to supplant the protestant and very German, King George I (hitherto, Elector of Hanover) on the throne, again with the aid of the French. This Jacobite Rebellion failed miserably.

A second rebellion took place in 1745 led by his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart – the young Pretender). Again, the rising was a disaster and he and was routed at the battle of Culloden by the Duke of Cumberland in 1746. Later that year Prince Charlie left for France aboard a French frigate and ended his life, a querulous drunk, in Rome in 1789.

It is in France that we meet John Francis Wade. Wade was born around 1711 in England the son of a cloth merchant, John Wade, who had numerous connections to Leeds and the wool trade. A Catholic layman, he found life in England unpalatable and by 1731 he was copying plainchant at the Dominical College at Bornhem, Flanders.

Following the 1745 Stuart rebellion, Wade settled in Douai (or Douay), France, the location of a major Catholic college established by Phillip II of Spain in 1559 where many of the English Catholics found refuge. He made his living "by copying and selling plain chant and other music," and the teaching of Latin and Church song. Wade was also well connected with prominent English Catholic musicians of the time, including Thomas Arne (1720-1778), and Samuel Webbe (1740-1816). He was also an instrumental force in the English revival of plainchant.

In 1751, Wade was back in Lancashire for a while as a 'pensioner' in the house of Nicholas King, but he appears to have lived primarily in Douai. He died there on August 16, 1786. His obituary read:
"Mr. John Francis Wade, a Layman, aged 75, with whose beautiful Manuscript Books our Chapels as well as private Families abound, in writing which, and teaching the Latin and Church Song he chiefly spent his Time."

The most informed opinion holds that Wade wrote both the words and the music. Both the words and the music appear in five existing manuscripts (four of which were signed by Wade).

There is a remarkable similarity to a tune from a comic opera, Acajou by Charles Simon Favart (1710-1792) (Paris, March 18, 1744). The tune was called Air Angolis, but the evidence is that wade had written the hymn by 1743 at the latest, and possibly as early as 1740.

The lyrics were printed in France in 1760 in the Evening Offices of the Church. In England, the hymn and tune first appeared in the Essay or Instruction for Learning the Church Plain Chant in 1782 in London (the author was Samuel Webbe). Ten years later, in 1792, the hymn and tune were repeated in a four-part setting of the tune in Samuel Webbe's Collection of Motetts or Antiphons. Regrettably, Webbe did not give any attribution of the composer of the tune.

The hymn has often been called "The Portuguese Hymn." This is because an 1795 performance of the hymn by Samuel Webbe was first heard by the Duke of Leeds at the chapel of the Portuguese embassy, in South Street, Grosvenor Square in London, one of the few strongholds of Catholic culture in the country at that time. The Duke was so impressed that he commissioned a fuller arrangement by Thomas Greatorex. This arrangement was performed at a "Concert of Ancient Music" on May 10, 1797. According to Vincent Novello, the hymn was identified as "The Portuguese Hymn" since the Duke erroneously assumed that Portugal was source.

The erstwhile chapel of the Portuguese Embassy associated with the hymn is still there on Warwick Street between Regent Street and Golden Square, but it is now simply a Roman Catholic church unconnected with any Embassy.

The music has also been attributed to many composers, including the English organist John Reading, Sr. (d. 1692) who was organist at Winchester Cathedral, John Reading, Jr. (1677-1764) his son who was a pupil of Dr John Blow, Handel, and Marcos Antonio da Fonesca (1762-1830), a Portuguese musician (who, it was later determined, was born 19 or 20 years after the first publication).

Originally, Wade wrote a four-verse lyric, but later additions increased the number to eight verses (although only 7 have any contemporary currency).
Three additional Latin verses were subsequently created by Abbé Étienne Jean François Borderies (1764-1832), and printed in the Office de St. Omer (1822).

En grege relicto, Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant;
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.

Aeterni Parentis splendorem aeternum
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum infantem, pannis involutum

Pro nobis egenum Et foeno cubantem,
Piis foveamus amplexibus;
Sic nos anamtem quis non redamaret?

A eighth verse was added in the mid 19th century to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany; its authorship is unknown:

Stella duce, Magi, Christum adorantes,
Aurum, thus, et myrrham dant munera;
Jesu infanti corda praebeamus.

It has been suggested that Abbé Borderies heard the hymn sung while exiled in England in 1793 and wrote the three additional stanzas after he returned to France in 1794. The eighth Latin verse was written by an unknown author but of possibly Gallic origins and printed in Belgium circa 1850 and in Paris circa 1868.

The Abbé Etienne Jean Francois Borderies, had been exiled during the French Revolution. The Revolution targeted not only the nobility, but also the Church. It is ironic that France, which gave shelter to English Catholics during the early part of the Eighteenth Century should exile its own Catholics to England in the latter part of the Century.

The Counter-Revolution began on July 27, 1794, which the French Republican Calendar dates as 9 Thermidor, Year II. Robespierre and Saint-Just came under a concerted and organized attack from other members of the Committee of Public Safety. Robespierre gambled and appealed to the deputies of the Right to support him. However, the deputies of the Right rejected his appeal and the Committee almost unanimously voted against him and his close allies. Robespierre and his allies had alienated even their traditional supporters by indiscriminate violence, and could offer no resistance when the National Convention ordered their arrest.

The following day, 10 Thermidor (July 28), the new authorities guillotined (without trial, nor even the light formality of a Revolutionary Tribunal) Robespierre, Saint-Just, Georges Couthon, and several other supporters, including members of the Paris Commune (the city government of Paris).

On his return to France after the 9th Thermidor Abbé Borderies became curate at St. Thomas d’Aquin church in Paris, and acquired for himself great fame as a Catechist: “ Il fut le premier catéchiste de France,” wrote Mgr. Dupanloup. After some years he was promoted Vicar General of Paris (1819), and later (in 1829) was raised to the See of Versailles, where he died in 1832.

Tomorrow I shall write about the English translation, "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Away in a Manger

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

The cattle are lowing the baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus look down from the sky
And stay by my side, 'til 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.

Scripture reference: Luke 2:7

Although this children’s song often carries the appellation “Luther’s Carol” one thing we can be certain of; Martin Luther had nothing to do with it. Indeed, the cloying sentimentality of the words places them strictly in the late Victorian era. After all, the adjective “sweet” to describe the head of the baby could only come from then and the conceit that a baby was so “good” he would not cry hardly belongs to the earthy Martin Luther. It is possible that they were written for the 400th anniversary of Luther’s birth in 1883.

The words of the first two stanzas originally appeared in a Little children's book: for schools and families. By authority of the general council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (Philadelphia, J. C. File, 421 Market Street, 1885). They were not among the other Christmas carols, but as a "Nursery" hymn, the very last item in the volume. The date of copyright is June 16, 1885, but the preface is dated "Christmas 1884". They next appeared in Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses by James R Murray (Cincinnati, Ohio: The John Church Co., 1887). Murray gave the song the heading “Luther’s Cradle Hymn”.

Despite extensive research, no-one has been able to find the author of the hymn. The German version did not appear until 1934 and is clearly a translation from the English. All we can say that is that it a late Victorian song, probably written by someone within the American Lutheran tradition.

The author of the third stanza is not much clearer. A collection published by Charles H Gabriel in 1892, called Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs gives the third stanza for the first time. Bishop William F. Anderson says John Thomas McFarland wrote it sometime between 1904-08, while the Bishop was Secretary of the Board of Education. Obviously, the dates are too far off to accept the story at its face value, particularly since McFarland's claim comes second-hand. The circumstances as related by Bishop Anderson permit the interpretation that the Bishop merely thought McFarland had just written the stanza for his use, whereas actually he had written it much earlier for another occasion. Or McFarland may have simply copied it for the Bishop from some source known to him, and the Bishop deduced his authorship from the fact that the copy was in McFarland's hand. In either case, the 1892 publication renders the Bishop's story suspect, and additional evidence must be found before McFarland can be safely credited with the writing of the third stanza.

McFarland was educated at Simpson College, Iowa Wesleyan University, and the Boston University School of Theology. He pastored in Iowa, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Kansas. He also served as Secretary of the Board of Sunday Schools in New York City, secretary of the Sunday School Union, and editor of Sunday school materials for the Methodist Episcopal Church.

According to Richard Hill in an article from December 1945 the carol has been published in 41 different settings. In America, the song is usually sung to the tune “Mueller”. Who was Mueller? From 1921 to 1945 among the collections in which “Away in a Manger” appears, fifteen have come out for Martin Luther as the composer of this particular melody and fifteen for Carl Mueller. Several collections in the early twenties give no composer at all, and after 1934 a trend developed to pass off the problem entirely by giving the origin of the tune simply as "German" or "Traditional." Carl Mueller in German is about the same as John Smith in English, and no particular Carl Mueller has been discovered to accept the attribution. On the other hand the tune first appeared in 1887 in James R Murray’s publication and two years later, the tune is credited to JRM.

Murray is at least known to have been a musician. From 1856-1859, Murray studied at the Musical Institute in North Reading, Massachusetts, under Lowell Mason, George Root, William Bradbury, and George Webb. In 1862, in the midst of the American civil war, Murray enlisted as an Army musician. His first song, “Daisy Deane,” was composed in a Virginia camp in 1863. After the war, he returned home to teach piano, but soon joined the Root & Cady publishing house in Chicago, Illinois, as editor of The Song Messenger. He stayed with Root & Cady until the great Chicago fire of 1871, when he returned to Andover and resumed work as a music teacher. In 1881, Murray moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to work for the John Church Company, editing The Musical Visitor, and taking charge of the publishing department. Under the circumstances, there would seem to be no reasonable grounds on which Murray's claim to having composed the setting can be denied.

In the UK the song is sung to an entirely different tune known as “Cradle Song”.
The tune “Cradle Song” was composed for the hymn by W. J. Kirkpatrick On October 2, 1895, William J. Kirkpatrick sent in proof sheets of seven songs, either by himself or his chief collaborator, John R. Sweney. On Dec. 9, 1895, Cranston & Curts registered a small pamphlet containing these seven songs, plus some additional material. The title of the pamphlet was: Around the world with Christmas. A Christmas exercise. Words arranged by E. E. Hewitt. Music by John R. Sweney and Wm, Kirkpatrick. Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis: Cranston & Curls; New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco: Hunt & Eaton. The service is made up of the usual mixture of recitations and vocal numbers, the latter ranging from "The Doxology" to a song by George F. Root. Halfway through, the service begins to justify its title by introducing numbers depicting "Christmas in England," "The Land o' Cakes" [Scotland], "The German Fatherland," "Denmark," "Austria," and lastly a carol, "All over the world". "Luther's Cradle Hymn," music by Kirkpatrick, is used to exemplify "The German Fatherland”. It is notable that the third stanza is included (10 years before McParland is supposed to have written it!) Note the inclusion once more of the third stanza. Although Kirkpatrick was not misled into thinking that Murray’s setting went back to Luther, he apparently believed that the poem was typical of Germany – sufficiently typical to make the Germans forget that the music was written for the occasion by Kirkpatrick himself. This is just another of the absurd contradictions that everyone seems to have peacefully accepted.

Kirkpatrick (1838-1921) was a prodigious hymn writer. Most of the sources say that he was a native of Pennsylvania, although David J. Beattie maintains with considerable assurance in his The romance of sacred song (London and Edinburgh, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd., 1931, p. 184) that he was born in Ireland. At any rate, he was in Pennsylvania by a comparatively early age, and during the Civil War served as a fife major with the 91st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. During the twelve years that followed, according to Beattie, he "was connected with a furniture manufacturing company, but in 1878 he abandoned all commercial pursuits and gave his undivided attention to the writing of sacred music, gradually gaining the ear and admiration of the English-speaking world."

It was Kirkpatrick's setting that first carried the words beyond the confines of the United States, but not to Germany, where it remained virtually unknown. Sankey played a part in carrying his earlier productions to England, and once he was known over here, it is only natural that his setting of the "Cradle Hymn" would reach these shores. His popularity here was further facilitated by his almost unbelievable productivity, which supplied a hymn on almost any conceivable subject. As a rough indication of how many hymns he must have written, his widow, Lizzie E. Sweney Kirkpatrick of Germantown, Pa., renewed the copyright on his setting of "Away in a manger" on Jan. 26, 1923. She assigned the rights of one group of 1049 of his hymns to the Hope Publishing Co., on March 3, 1924, and this was by no means his total output.

Friday, December 21, 2007

O little town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Scripture references Job 38:7, Micah 5:2, Matt 2:1, Matt 2:6.

Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) wrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868, three years after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine especially at night time hence the lyrics of O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Brooks was a native of Boston and Harvard educated, and was to become one of America’s greatest preachers, yet his early life was a failure as a Latin teacher in his home city. He joined the Christian ministry and it was while he was Rector of Holy Trinity, Philadelphia that he wrote the hymn. He was later elevated to the (Anglican) Bishopric of Boston. If you visit Copley Square in Boston you will see, reflected in the mirror glass of the John Hancock building, Trinity Church, completed in 1877, and designed by H. H. Richardson in the Romanesque Revival style. It is located on the eastern side of the square. Considered Richardson's tour de force, the 1893 Baedeker's United States pronounced it "deservedly regarded as one of the finest buildings in America." On this church you will see a plaque commemorating Brook’s ministry and his writing of this carol.

He was a giant of a man, who stood 6 feet 8 inches, also had a big heart that endeared him to old and young alike. It was said that his personality radiated tenderness, sweetness and a passionate sincerity. There were toys in his office for the many children who visited him. It was a familiar sight to see the beloved bishop sitting on the floor playing a game with a group of children.

He never married but other people's children became like a family to him. When he died unexpectedly in 1893, at the age of 58, everyone was overwhelmed with grief. It was a child who put his death in a beautiful light. When told by her mother that Bishop Brooks had gone to heaven, she simply said, "Oh Mama, how happy the angels will be to see him in heaven”

His church organist in Philadelphia, who was also the Sunday School Superintendent, Lewis Redner (1831-1908), wrote the melody to O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children's choir. Mr. Redner sat down at the piano to find just the right tune to carry the descriptive words. But nothing he wrote seemed to fit. On the night before the Christmas Eve service he felt defeated, so he went to bed. During his fretful sleep it seemed that he heard music. Immediately, he got up and wrote down the melody just as it is sung today in America. When he joyfully presented it to Rev. Brooks he said: "I think it was a gift from heaven." The children sounded like a choir of angels as they sang the new carol written just for them. Brooks wanted to call the tune “Lewis” after Redner, but he demurred and as a compromise the tune became known as “St Louis”.

Despite its popularity in America it was hardly known in England until it appeared in the English Hymnal of 1906 with a different tune. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote “Forest Green” based on a traditional English folk song, “The Ploughman’s Dream” which comes from Forest Green, Near Ockley in Surrey and this is the tune usually sung, but another beautiful melody is used in the Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings. Christmas Carol by Sir Henry Walford Davies. Sir Henry was born in Oswestry and educated at the Royal College of Music, having been a choir boy for the Queen at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was Master of the King’s Music from 1934-41. Illustrious indeed, but less famous than Vaughan Williams, perhaps the greatest English composer of the 20th Century who was awarded the Order of Merit, the highest civilian award available in Britain and restricted to only 24 members at any one time.

One remarkable setting, seldom heard in churches, marries the words with the music of “House of the Rising Sun”, the Eric Burden hit of the sixties.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Silent Night

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

2. 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! :|

3. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
|: Jesum in Menschengestalt! :|

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

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

6. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
|: "Jesus der Retter ist da!"

Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht! was written by a German priest named Joseph Mohr on Christmas Eve 1818. Joseph was the son of Franz Mohr, an itinerant mercenary, and as he was away most of the time, Joseph was brought up by foster parents. The head of the household was a Roman Catholic priest named Hiernle. Joseph himself was ordained in 1815 after serving in several parishes came to minister in the village church of St Nicholas, Oberdorf in Upper Austria, near Salzburg.

Today books, films and Internet sites are filled with fanciful tales purporting to tell the history of "Silent Night." Some tell of mice eating the bellows of the organ creating the necessity for a hymn to be accompanied by a guitar. Others claim that Joseph Mohr was forced to write the words to a new carol in haste since the organ would not play. A recent film, created for Austrian television places Oberndorf in the Alps and includes evil railroad barons and a double-dealing priest, while a recent book by a German author places a zither in the hands of Franz Gruber and connects Joseph Mohr with a tragic fire engulfing the city of Salzburg. You can read claims that "Silent Night" was sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 and then forgotten by its creators

One story of how the carol was written goes like this. As the snow fell outside the newly built small church in Oberdorf on Christmas Eve, preparation for midnight mass was interrupted by the announcement from local schoolmaster and organist Franz Gruber that the organ had broken down irreparably. Mohr was so upset that he left the preparations and wrapped up well to visit some parishioners. As he trudged through the thick snow he came to the home of a poor laborer whose wife had just delivered a new baby. As he walked wearily back to the church, the snow silently fell, snow on snow, giving brightness to the calm, dark night. It reminded him of the Nativity scene and the words “Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht! Alles schläft; einsam wacht“ came to his mind. Arriving back at the church with the words still ringing in his mind he soon penned four simple stanzas describing the wonder and majesty of the first Christmas.

As the organ had broken down, Mohr insisted that the schoolmaster tune up his old guitar. Together they hummed the simple tune that we know today. The girls of the village took up the tune and the whole carol was sung for the first time that very night.

When Christmas was over the organ was repaired by Karl Mauracher and Gruber played the new carol for him. Mauracher loved it straight away, but it was ten years before it became popular.

However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers at ca. 1820. It shows that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria,

The four Strasser children, Caroline, Joseph, Andreas and Analie had become popular Tyrolean singers (like the von Trapp’s) and they introduce the song into their repertoire as “The Song of Heaven”. At Christmas 1832 they sang it for the King and Queen of Saxony and since then it has been ever popular.

The first English version was by Bishop John F Young (1826-85) but we sing the translation by Stopford Augustus Brooke, an Irishman who left the Church of England to preach in Bedford Chapel (Bunyan’s) and translated the carol as “Still the night, holy the night”

Silent night Holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.


Still the night, Holy the night,
Sleeps the world, hid from sight,
Mary and Joseph in stable bare,
Watch o'er the child, beloved and fair,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Still the night, Holy the night,
Shepherds first saw the light,
Heard resounding clear and strong,
Far and near, the Angels song,
Christ the Redeemer is here,
Christ the Redeemer is here.

Still the night, Holy the night,
Son of God, love's pure light,
Love is smiling from thy face,
Strikes for us now the hour of grace,
Saviour since thou art born,
Saviour since thou art born.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Once in royal David's city

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.

Scripture references: Luke 2:7, Phil 2:7, I John 3:2.

Cecil Frances Humphries (1818-1895) wrote this hymn and published it in 1848 in Hymns for Little Children. A year later, H. J. Gauntlett discovered Miss Humphries' poem and set it to music.

Cecil Frances was the daughter of well-to-do Dublin landowner, Major John Humphries. This was a household where children knew their place, so she would hide her poems, written since the age of nine, under the carpet. Her father discovered her secret and provided a box for their reception, the contents of which she was allowed to read to the family on Saturday evenings. Her godsons complained that they could not understand the Creed, so she promptly set about writing verses to help them. From this small beginning she became the prolific author of over 400 hymns. The best known apart from “Once in Royal David’s city” are “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult”, “There is a green hill far away” and “All things bright and beautiful”.

Just as she was resigning herself to being ‘left on the shelf’ she married the outstanding clergyman, the Rev William Alexander, who was later to become Bishop of Derry and Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland. Readers should understand that these were positions in the Anglican Church – a minority sect in Ireland which is divided between Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. The couple lived most of their married life in the north in Strabane and Londonderry.

Although a very shy person, possibly because of myopia, she was nevertheless a great worker for women and children. Her hymns went into a hundred editions for the deaf mutes of Londonderry and she was a strong supporter of the Home for Fallen Women (as unmarried mothers were known in those days).

Once in Royal David’s City is written from a woman’s point of view. She clearly sympathized with the “lowly maiden in whose gentle arms he lay”. In a world dominated by men she has been called subversive by modern feminists. Did she see Mary as a model for her fallen women?

The world over, the carol is sung to the tune “Irby” by Henry John Gauntlet who became the organist at his father's church at Olney, Buckinghamshire at the age of 9. He was intended for a career in law and remained a lawyer until he was almost forty years of age, when he abandoned that profession and devoted himself to music. He was organist at a number of leading London churches and eventually the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on him by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he being the first to receive such a degree from that quarter for over 200 years. He did much to raise the standard of church music both mechanically and musically. In 1852 he patented an "electrical-action apparatus" for organs. He wrote much music and over 1000 hymn tunes, and edited a large number of hymn books.

Since 1919, the King's College Chapel has begun their Christmas Eve service, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, with "Once in Royal David's City" as the processional. The first verse is sung by a member of the Choir of King's Chapel as a solo. The second verse is sung by the choir, and in the third verse the congregation joins. Excluding the first verse, the hymn is accompanied by the organ. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide who tune in to this service.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hark the Herald Angels Sing!

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"

Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home:
Rise, the woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head:
Sing we, then, with angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King!
Glory in the highest heaven,
Peace on earth, and sins forgiven."

(Scripture references: Gen 3:15, Isa 7:14, Isa 9:6, Hag 2:7, Mal 4:2, Matt 1:23, Luke 2:13-14, 2 Cor 5:19, Phil 2:6-7.)

Today is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley, so what other carol could I choose but this one? His other Christmas hymn, "Let earth and heaven combine", while containing some apt phrases and welcome theology, is definitely the lesser example of his art.

Hark the herald was written by Charles Wesley (1707-88), and first published in 1739 as ‘Hark, how all the welkin rings/Glory to the King of Kings’. 'Welkin' means the 'vault of heaven' or more prosaically, the 'sky'. The story is told that in the year that Wesley 'consciously believed' he was on his way to morning service when he heard the church bells ringing as if the sound was coming from heaven and he remarked "Hark, how all the welkin rings glory to the King of Kings". It was as if the whole sky rang with God's glory. It's not the sort of remark you would make today unless you were cultivating an air of quaintness.

The version known today is the result of alterations by various hands, most notably George Whitfield, Wesley's rather more Calvinistic co-worker, who changed the opening couplet to the familiar one we know today. Whitefield also cut out several verses. The original is made up of ten four-line verses and ends:

Come, desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman's conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent's head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruin'd nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart,
Form'd in each believing heart.

Wesley disliked Whitefield's version and refused to sing it. "You have no Biblical warrant for presuming that the angels sang. They proclaimed Christ's birth."

Various hymn-books, including the influential English Hymnal of 1906, have subsequently attempted to revive Wesley’s original, without success and since 1987hymn books have tended to emasculate the hymn, putting in 'we' and 'us' instead of 'man', making it what I call a 'hermn' rather than a 'hymn'. To me they are no better than:

Hark! the herald angels sing
Beecham’s pills are just the thing
Two for a woman, one for a child,
They will make you meek and mild.

The tune, ‘Mendelssohn’, was adapted in 1856 by W H Cummings (1831-1915), the organist from Waltham Abbey, from the second movement of Festgesang an die Künstler, a choral cantata, composed in 1840 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) and dedicated to marking the quatercentenary of Gutenberg’s invention of movable type.

One of the original tunes that "Hark! How all the welkin rings" was sung to was also used as a tune for "Amazing Grace". Many hymns in the eighteenth century consisted merely of printed words without music. It was left to those leading the singing to choose an appropriate tune based on the metre of the verse. Wesley himself, however, envisaged his lyrics sung to the same tune as his Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."

The tune that is now almost always used for this carol is based on a chorus composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840, part of his cantata Festgesang ("Festival Song") to commemorate the printer Johann Gutenberg and the invention of his printing press. The cantata was first presented at the great festival held at Leipzig. Festgesang's second chorus, "Vaterland, in deinem Gauen", was adapted in 1855 by William Hayman Cummings. Mendelssohn said of the song that it could be used with many different choruses but that it should not be used for sacred music. This may be because the melodic and harmonic structure of the tune are similar to the Gavotte of Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 4; indeed Mendelssohn (who has always been linked with the music of Bach) may simply have adapted Bach's music for his chorus, as was proposed by Nigel Poole with his (transposed) arrangement of the Gavotte as Bach's Christmas Carol.

Monday, December 17, 2007

While shepherds watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
And glory shone around

"Fear not," he said,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind,
To you and all mankind."

"To you in David's
Town this day
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign
And this shall be the sign."

"The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid
And in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph,
And forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
Addressed their joyful song

"All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease
Begin and never cease!"

Tate and Brady sound like a couple of disreputable Irishmen and given the bawdy version of this carol I had the impression that they were jobbing songsters who lived in London pubs and knocked this one out for the price of a few beers. In fact Nahum Tate was Poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Anne and he collaborated with Nicholas Brady to produce Tate and Brady's 1700 supplement to their psalter, New Version of the Psalms of David of 1696.

It is believed that Tate (1652-1715) wrote the words which are based on Luke 2:8-14. The tune to which it was first sung and which is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is ‘Winchester Old,’ a tune that appears in Este's (pronounced East) Psalter of 1592, derived from Christopher Tye's setting of the Acts of the Apostles in 1553. It was arranged by George Kirbye, an East Anglian about whom little is known until Este employed him to arrange some of the 1592 tunes. Tye was a Cambridge man who became Master of Choristers at Ely Cathedral in 1541 and later Rector of Doddington in 1560, the richest living in England - he still got into financial difficulties. Thomas Este was the most important musical publisher during the reign of Elizabeth the First. His printing works were in Aldergate Street. Kirbye became Churchwarden of St Mary's Church, Bury St Edmunds, having been music master in the household of Sir Robert Jermyn of Rushbrook.

Nicholas Brady (October 28, 1659–May 20, 1726) was born at Bandon, County Cork, Ireland. He received his education at Westminster School and at Christ Church, Oxford; but he graduated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a zealous promoter of the Revolution (probably the Glorious revolution of 1688) and suffered in consequence. When war broke out in Ireland in 1690, Brady, by his influence, thrice prevented the burning of the town of Bandon, after James II had given orders for its destruction; and the same year he was employed by the people of Bandon to lay their grievances before the English parliament. He soon afterward settled in London, where he obtained various preferments including Chaplain to King William III. At the time of his death, he held the livings of Clapham and Richmond, and rich livings though they were, he was often in debt, and had to start a school in Richmond to pay his way.

Nahum Tate was born in Dublin in 1652, the son of Faithful Teate, an Irish clergyman. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and by 1676 had moved to London and was writing for a living. The following year he had adopted the spelling Tate, which would remain until his death, in 1715. Tate published a volume of poems in London in 1677, and became a regular writer for the stage. "Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers" (1678), a tragedy dealing with Dido and Aeneas, became the libretto for Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. He produced bowdlerized versions of Shakespeare's Richard II, King Lear(with a happy ending) and Coriolanus. Of the famous New Version of the Psalms of David (1696), only "While Shepherds watched", and "As pants the hart" continue to be sung, but he was also responsible for "Through all the changing scenes of life", which we sang at our wedding.

Of his numerous poems, the most original is Panacea, a poem on Tea {1700). He succeeded as poet laureate in 1692. In 1702 he was appointed Historiographer-Royal, but because of his intemperate ways he died in 1715 within the precincts of the Mint at the London Refuge for Debtors, Southwark, where was hiding from his creditors.

Until 1782, "While shepherds watched" was the only Christmas carol officially sanctioned by the Church of England

It was set to music in America 1812 in Harmonia Sacra. David Weyman's adaptation of "Christmas", taken from an aria in the 1728 opera Siroe by George Frideric Handel was arranged by Lowell Mason in 1821, and it is now this version which is most commonly used in the USA.

It has been set to numerous other tunes, most commonly "Martyrdom", written by Hugh Wilson in 1800 but with an arrangement by Ralph E. Hudson from around 1885, and "Shackelford" by Frederick Henry Cheeswright from 1889.

My own favorite is Sweet bells with the chorus:

Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells,
Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells,
They cheer us on our merry way, sweet chiming bells.
They cheer us on our merry way, sweet chiming bells.

Of the many parodies the one we sang at school was:

While shepherds washed their socks by night
All seated round the tub
A bar of Sunlight soap came down
And taught them how to scrub.

The last stanza of the carol is disliked by those of a Reformed persuasion as being Universalist.

"All glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace; goodwill henceforth from heaven to men begin and never cease." is a mistranslation of Luke 2:14. The NIV has "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
and the NASV "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." and the Amplified Bible Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [[a]men of goodwill, of His favor] which all stress that peace is to the Elect. On the other hand. the NKJV has "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men and Young's literal translation has "Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men -- good will" are not so particular.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Joy to the World!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And Saints and angels sing
And Saints and angels sing
And Saints and Saints and angels sing

Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns
Let Saints their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, Repeat, the sounding joy

Joy to 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 and wonders of His love

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He'll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And gives to nations proof
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love;
And wonders of His love;
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High,
While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God,
And ever worship God,
And ever, and ever worship God.

These are the words written in 1719 by Isaac Watts based loosely on Psalm 98. Isaac was born locally in Southampton. His father was a deacon at Above Bar Congregational Church (It is still there, rebuilt in the middle of a shopping center. I have been there many times and sat under the feet of Leith Samuel who ministered there for nearly 30 years) John Watts was imprisoned twice for his Dissenter views. Isaac was a precocious child. By the age of 13 he had learned Hebrew, Greek, Latin and French. When he was 15 he complained to his father about the stodgy nature of the hymns at that morning's services. He was promptly told that if he could do better then he had better do so. By that evening he had written a hymn based on Revelation 5

Behold the glories of the Lamb
Amidst the Father's throne
Prepare new honours for His name
And songs before unknown.

Despite being offered a University education he chose to attend a non-conformist Academy at Stoke Newington.(Perhaps Moreton's Academy for Dissenters where Daniel Defoe and Samuel Wesley were educated) Stoke Newington itself is worth a study. Notable residents were Mary Wollstonecraft (buried in St Peter's Bournemouth), author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women and mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who ran a girls' school with her sister Eliza from 1784 to 1786, and the poet Ann Letitia Barbauld, Andrew Rutherford, an eminent 19th-century researcher on microscopy and microorganisms, and the poet and banker Samuel Rogers. The religious impulse in Newington Green, however, remained strong, and several Christian Missions, including the Mildmay and South Indian, were established in the mid-19th century. The China Inland Mission, on the west side of the Green, was founded in 1872 by missionary James Hudson Taylor.

Isaac became Pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in 1701 by the age of 26, but in poor health he resigned in 1712 and for the next 36 years lived in the home of Sir Thomas Abney, devoting his life to writing. He died in Stoke Newington in 1748, the author of 600 hymns. There is a monument to him in Westminster Abbey.

The tune, "Antioch" was originally called "Comfort" and was published anonymously in The Congregational Harmonist of 1828. It's origin is from Handel's Messiah - the opening chords are much like those of the chorus "Lift up your heads". In 1836 it crossed the Atlantic and was renamed "Antioch" by Lowell Mason, one of the greatest American musical reformers and one of the first to agitate for universal musical education. He was born in Medfield Massachusetts in 1792 first worked making straw hats and then as a bank clerk. All this time he had been conducting church choirs and writing music an eventually he accepted a post in Boston as a Professor of Music and choir leader. In 1835 he received the first honorary degree as Doctor of Music from any American College.

"Joy to the World" is one of the best-known and best-loved of Christmas carols. It contains a message of joy and love replacing sin and sorrow. It may also be interpreted to be about life after the second coming of Christ. The hymn is significant for its widespread use throughout Christian denominations and for the musical stature of the people who created it.

This is the modern version of the hymn:

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 nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
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 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 of his love.