O Holy Night- Another Christmas Music Post!

Snowy Holy NightHappy 2014!  I am excited to be writing my first post in the new year.  I’ve been trying to come up with an organizational plan for my weekly posts.  I work much better if I have a plan, or perhaps theme, to guide my actions.  So for my first Thursday post each month I am going to focus on music!  No better place to start than with my absolute favorite Christmas song of all time- O Holy Night.  This song has been at the top of all my lists for years.  It is musically sound and even the worst versions can still prove somewhat enjoyable.  But when it’s good, O yeah!

The song originates in France.  It was written by Adolphe Adam in 1847  for the poem Minuit, Chretiens (Midnight, Christians).  The first performance was in a small french church to celebrate the repair of the organ.  The first singer was a well-known opera singer of the day.  The topic of the poem, and thus the song, is the birth of the savior and our redemption as man.  Check out the opening verse and chorus:

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

St P crecheThe song has always had great success over the last 150+ years.  It has been recorded by world renown singers, bands, choirs, and orchestras.  It is part of many small church repertoire for the holidays.  Notably it is part of history as well.  In 1906 it was the first live performance on the new AM radio program.  That first broadcast version featured voice and violin.  It is truly timeless.  A recording made in 1916 is still being sold today!

One of the things I resolve to do with Christmas music this year is to find new versions of songs I love.  For O Holy Night I discovered a great version through a post on a friend’s Facebook page with a recording of Auld Lang Syne.  It featured three singers from the Broadway show Spider-man singing acapella.  I went a little further with some Youtube searching and discovered the had a recording of O Holy Night.  Not just their version, a great version.  Give it a listen-

This is my new go to favorite for this tune.  (Bonus is that one of the three guys is a JMU alum- Go Dukes!)   As I sit here watching the snow fall on a cold winter night it definitely fills me with the spirit of Christmas!

For Mom- O Holy Night

Happy Mother’s day!  Today is the day for all to celebrate the wonderful gifts provided by mothers everywhere.  My mom was feeling too well today, but I still took time to think about how lucky I am to have such a totally amazing mom!  When I think about the holidays and all that I love about Christmas, I can’t not think about my mom.  She and I share a love for winter and especially Christmas.  We have spent many a late night on Christmas Eve quietly ringing in Christmas Day whether it be making cookies, wrapping last-minute gifts, or sitting on the couch watching the Pope celebrate midnight mass on NBC.  We both love Christmas music and listen to it as soon as we can in the fall.  We both love the same favorite tune O Holy Night.

O Holy Night was written in 1847 by Adolphe Adam.  He adapted it from the french poem Minuit Chretiens (Midnight Christians) penned by the poet Placide Cappeau.  The poem was all about the birth of Jesus and the redemption of man at his birth.  In 1855 we gained the English versions with the translations provided by a minister, John Sullivan Dwight. The next 50 years saw the popularity of the song grow. The song plays an interesting part in the history of broadcast music.  On Christmas Eve 1906 the first AM radio broadcast was made.  O Holy Night was the second song played that night and the first Christmas song ever broadcast on radio.  If that doesn’t seal it as a special song, what else is there?

There are hundreds of recorded versions of the song today.  If an artist makes a Christmas collection, it almost always includes a version of O Holy Night.  There are websites listing all types of audio and video recordings- check this site out.  If you only have time to listen to a few versions, here are some not to miss:

1- A 1917 recording from the National Jukebox Project at the Library of Congress. 
2- Classic version from Nat King Cole.  
3- 2002 Josh Groban version from Rockefeller Center 
4- Traditional version from King’s College Choir