Cheryl’s Five Favorite Christmas Carols
By Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of how Little Shepherd came to be. If not, here’s the condensed version. Each night when I sang “The Little Drummer Boy” to my daughter as a lullaby, I would get this picture of a shepherd in the hills outside Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. He simply wouldn’t go away until I wrote his story.
Since a Christmas carol inspired my first book, I figured I would share five of my favorite Christmas carols with you.
“O Holy Night”
John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music, translated Placide Cappeau's Cantique de Noël into the singing version we know today. On Christmas Eve in 1906, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden made history when he transmitted the first radio broadcast, which was of him playing “O Holy Night” on the violin.
A member of the choir from the Catholic church I attended as a child would sing Dwight’s version in French each year at midnight mass. I’ve never been able to find it online, but my mother sang this song in both languages. Hearing it brings back fond memories.
“Mary, Did You Know?”
Many songs of Christmas talk about the Christ Child, the angels, the wise men, or the shepherds. Mark Lowry’s “Mary, Did You Know?” posed a series of questions he wanted to ask Jesus’ mother. Buddy Greene wrote the music for this song, which was first recorded by Michael English in 1991.
As a mother and a Christian, I am drawn to this song. We cannot foresee what mark our children will leave on the world, but Mary knew from the very beginning that the child she carried would be special. The story of Jesus in the temple at the age of 12 indicates Mary did not have a full understanding of why Jesus came down from heaven, and I doubt she could have imagined how much He would suffer, but she was a true humble servant of the Lord.
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”
Several versions of this song exist. The original is believed to date back to 1865, when the song was sung among African-American slaves. “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” was first published in 1907 in Folk Songs of the American Negro by John Wesley Work, Jr.
This is another one of those carols I would sing to my oldest daughter from the time she born. She was probably about five when she walked over to the neighbor’s house, rang the doorbell, and started belting out this song at the top of her lungs. Aw, sweet memories.
“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
I love this carol, and yet, I confuse the lyrics all the time. Mixing up the verses doesn’t exactly provide the same effect. After the first stanza, I never know if I’m singing it right.
This five-stanza poem was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears while he was the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts. The lyrics appeared in the Christian Register in 1849, but a decade would pass before composer Richard Storrs Willis created the melody for it.
“We Three Kings of Orient Are”
I didn’t fully appreciate this carol until I was an adult. I don’t remember singing all the verses in church when I was a child, so perhaps that was part of it. The music and lyrics of this carol were written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857 for a Christmas pageant at the General Theological Seminary where he taught music. In 1863, he published the carol in his book Carols, Hymns and Song.
What I find so powerful about this carol is how it connects Christmas and Easter. The song begins with the Magi’s journey to find the newborn King, and throughout it the listener hears and learns the significance of the gifts these wise men bring. The tone of the song takes a somber turn in the fourth stanza when Balthazar sings of his gift: myrrh. This was an expensive spice used to make perfume, medicine, or to anoint the dead. The rest of this stanza speaks of the suffering of Jesus, His death, and burial. The final stanza of the song celebrates the glorious Resurrection of Christ, calling Him, “King and God and Sacrifice!”
My thanks to Abi for hosting me today. I hope you will all share some of your favorite Christmas carols with me.
About the book:
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About the author:
Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author and editor. Her first children’s book, Little Shepherd, was released in August 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing. She is a member of the SCBWI, a book reviewer, and blogger. Cheryl also writes under the name of C. C. Gevry. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.
Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and the Little Shepherd book blog at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/.
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