When Jeremy told me that our next Christmas song would be the beautiful “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” I was delighted. Not only do I like the song in Latin and in English, but also, I like many recorded versions, especially Nat King Cole’s 1960 recording.
Surprise! As I did my research, I watched the YouTube video of Nicki Minaj’s Grammy performance spectacle where she sings “Roman Holiday” with a supporting cast of dancers in religious costume performing inappropriate and mocking gestures. The chorus in the performance sings the opening of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” It was difficult to see anything positive in her portrayal of the sacred. Yuck.
Also in my quest for performances, Twisted Sister’s video was listed before many classic versions. I watched the whole video, beginning with the satire of a young couple exchanging gifts in a classic holiday living room. The band then crowded in and sang the song accompanied by heavy metal sound and depictions of the female letting her hair down and getting excited by the sacred music. While some might enjoy this version, it is not for me.
Tomorrow, I’ll revisit the song and the more traditional recorded versions. There’s a lot of interesting history about this carol, which was written and sung long before most other Christmas tunes. What recording of the song do you like?
Natalie and I have continually come back to Christmas music as a talking point for us and the Yule Log. We are now more than half-way through the year and have not spent nearly as much time and energy on Christmas music as I thought we would. Time to change that! Christmas is only 24 weeks away. Each week I will have a focus song of the week. We will be open to look at its origins and history, debate good and bad recorded versions, and make some decisions about its future use. We might include sound and video clips for your feedback, ask for suggestions and ideas about the songs from you, and maybe even have Natalie sing a verse or two:)
This week’s Christmas Song of the Week is: Away in a Manger. The song is an American carol from the mid-nineteenth century. There are certainly hundreds of versions of this to consider and lots of variety in the song. More this week!!
Not sure why, but for some reason the song Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella popped into my head this afternoon. I think I might have heard something similar to it playing on a store’s sound system. It got me to thinking about who this girl Jeanette Isabella might have been and why there’s a Christmas song about her. I did a little research to get to the bottom of this business.
The song is based on a french tune that dates to the 1400s. The lyrics to Un Flambeau, Jeanettte, Isabella come from the Provence region of France. The song was originally written as a dance tune for the nobles. Only later when published in a book of Christmas Carols in 1553 did it begin to be associated with the holiday. We didn’t get the English version until the mid-1700s. The lyrics tell the tale of the discovery of the birth of Christ and the journey to tell all the villagers and the ensuing celebration. Turns out that Jeanette and Isabella are two people! These two young girls rush back to the village to tell the wonderful news. So who were these two? No one really knows for sure what the details might have been. History seems to go with the version created by the renowned French painter Georges de La Tour in a nativity painting. In the painting there are two young milk maids come to the stable to milk the cows. Jeanette and Isabella, the milk maids, are so excited to find the baby Jesus that they light torches and rush back to their village to share the news. Today in France children still dress as farm folk and sing the song as they process to midnight mass. I’ll be able to sleep a little more soundly tonight knowing the mystery of Jeanette and Isabella. Next curiosity to solve is those scary ghost stories mentioned in the lyrics of Most Wonderful Time of the Year.