Some of My Favorite Advent and Christmas Carols

This is a season of singing! Of course, the interesting question is, what is there to sing about but I will leave that to another blog. I thought I might share some of the Christmas music I love the most. This is in no particular order except what comes to mind.

1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. This is properly an Advent song, that longs for the coming of “God with us” and the very music speaks of both longing and the great joy that Emmanuel has come.

2. What Child is This? The tune of “Greensleeves” is part of the wonder of this song, but only part. The other part is the words, the first part of which ask a question of wonder about this child and the second declare the greatness clothed in the garb of the babe.

3. Joy to the World! This Isaac Watts carol with music by Lowell Mason (and part from G. F. Handel) captures in music the tremendous thing that has occurred in the coming of the Christ. Here is verse 4:

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, wonders, of His love.

4. I must include Silent Night not only for the wonderful story of this carol’s composition but also the memories of singing this for most of my life at candlelight services.

5. Of the Father’s Love Begotten is a chant whose words date back to the 4th century and explore the wonder of the incarnation. More recently Caldwell & Ivory wove this song into their Hope for Resolution which Capriccio has had the chance to sing at our Christmas concert a couple years ago and several times since.

And some lesser know carols:

6. Thou Who Wast Rich was written by Frank Houghton to a French Carol melody. Here is the first verse:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

There are “covers” of this song on YouTube by contemporary artists, not all which acknowledge the authorship and none of which are particularly satisfying. You can find the lyrics to the song and a midi file here.

7. Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming is a German carol (my ethnic heritage!) and likens the infant Christ to an ever blooming Rose drawing from the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 that ‘a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse.”

8. Who Comes this Night is a contemporary carol written a few years ago by David Grusin, the jazz musician and performed by James Taylor on his Christmas album.  You can listen to a choral version of this here.

9. A few years ago Capriccio sang The Darkest Midnight in December written by Stephen Main.  Here is a recording I listened to many times as I practiced this music.

10. And just yesterday we sang another piece I’ve come to love, What Sweeter Music by John Leavitt. Here is a link from Stanton Music’s website (a great source of sheet music located right here in Columbus!).

What are some of the songs you most love to hear and sing at this time of the year?

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