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And so this is Christmas number two.

Your all-time favourite songs, carols and hymns as voted by you.

This is number 2 in the series of articles on Christmas songs.  I’ve got a lot of responses. Thank you one and all.  I’ll try to include one from everyone.


This week, I’m incorporating Christmas Carols as well as songs in general because you sent in a lot of requests for them.  I’m also taking some old classics that some artists have put their own twist on.

So here goes.  But before that Paddy Englishman, Paddy Irishman and Paddy Scotsman all died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates. 'In honour of this Holy season, you must each possess something that symbolises Christmas to get into heaven.' Saint Peter said.

Paddy Englishman fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. 'It's a candle', he said. 'You may pass through the pearly gates' Saint Peter said.

Paddy Scotsman reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, 'They're bells.' Saint Peter said 'You may pass through the pearly gates'.

Paddy Irishman started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women's panties. St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, 'And just what do those symbolise?' Paddy Irishman replied, 'These are Carol's.'

First up, it’s one that is so obvious I forgot about it.  It’s Jingle Bells, suggested by Dick in Cincinnati.  Did you know that it was written in 1850 as a winter song, not a Christmas Song, by James Lord Pierpont and called ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’.  It was written in Medford Massachusetts in the Simpson Tavern (I didn’t know the Simpsons were around then!). In 1857 it was copyrighted and revised in 1859 as ‘Jingle Bells’ and has since passed into the public domain.

Next is Silent Night, suggested by Frances from Detroit.  This was composed in 1818 in Austria by Father Joseph Mohrand and is perhaps the most translated song in the world – over 140 languages.  Its original name was ‘Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht‘. The original manuscript has been lost. However a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Fr. Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers as ca. 1820. It shows that Fr. Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Fr. Mohr's handwriting. Franz Gruber's arrangement was influenced by the musical tradition of his rural home. The melody of "Silent Night" bears resemblance to aspects of Austrian folk music and yodeling.

If I didn't include Michael Buble, I'd be divorced

The next one comes from me. It’s called Christmas 1915 or maybe Silent Night 1915. Seemingly this is based on true events during the First World War when unofficial ceasefires took place along the western front.  Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches. On occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides – as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units – independently ventured into "no man's land", where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another.  The lyrics of this song are very thought provoking and bring home the atrocities of war.

Anita Daly from New York is sending me a new cd, 'Together For Christmas: A Contemporary Celtic Christmas Collection'.  If I get it before Christmas, I’ll write about it.

John from England suggested 'Oh Holy Night'. This demands a large vocal range and is a difficult song to sing well.  It was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem "Minuit, chrétiens" (Midnight, Christians).  Placide Cappeau was asked to write the poem by the local Unitarian parish priest as a Christmas Poem.  The poem was put to music by Unitarian Minister John Sullivan Dwight in 1855.  In both the French original and in the two familiar English versions of the carol, the text reflects on the birth of Jesus and of mankind's redemption.

Leontyne Price, a Soprano singer from the Deep South.
She is 85 now

Aled Jones - as a boy and a man

Hallelujah was suggested by Tim from Minnesota.  This could be the Hallelujah Chorus or Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.  Tim meant the LC version.  It was written in 1984 by Leonard Cohen.  This song has been covered by many artists and when LC wrote it, it didn’t do too well. However, when it was sung by John Cale and later Jeff Buckley, it took off.  There are over 300 versions of the song.  LC rewrote the tune many times and this shows through the different lyrics by the artists.  His original version, as recorded on his Various Positions album, contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and traitorous Delilah from the Book of Judges as well as the adulterous King David and Bathsheba: "she cut your hair" and "you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you".  One of the more modern versions is by Alexandra Burke who won the X Factor in 2008.

The Hallelujah Chorus is part of the seventh scene in part II of Handel’s Messiah.  It was composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer (which are worded slightly differently from their King James counterparts). It was first performed in Dublin on 13thApril 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

This is a great video of a flash mob. You have to see it.

Andre Rieu

Marian from Dublin spoke about Gabriels Message and at first I thought she was talking about Gabriel Byrnes recent comments, but she wasn’t.  It’s a Basque carol, paraphrased by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) and originally based on Angelus Ad Virginem, Anonymous 13th or 14th Century Latin.  It is commonly performed in an arrangement by Edgar Pettman published in his 1892 book Modern Christmas Carols. Some modern interpretations include a track on Sting's single "Russians" (1985) and on his album If On a Winter's Night... (2009). English rock band Marillion recorded a version for their 1999 fan club-exclusive album Christmas.Marillion, which was also performed on their 2003 DVD Christmas in the Chapel. Canadian roots musicians Terry McDade and The McDades on their 2001 release "Midwinter". Christian rock band Jars of Clay also recorded a version for their 2007 "Christmas Songs" album. In 2012, Kalakan trio performed an arrangement of this song based on the Basque oral tradition during the introduction of the show of Madonna's MDNA tour.

Adrian from Leixlip suggested Hark the Herald Angels Sing. The words originate from Charles Wesley in his collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems from 1739.  In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn's secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of "Hark The Herald Angels Sing". Charles Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his song Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, and in some hymnals, is included along with the more popular version.This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in "The Church Hymn Book" (New York and Chicago, USA, 1872).

Martin from Cavan suggested Away in a Manger.  This hymn first appeared in 1885 in Philadelphia.  It was written in two verses, Verses 1 & 2, anonymous, in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, by J. C. File (Philadelphia, 1885). Some sources show the author as Martin Luther; this attribution (now shown as being incorrect) is based on the title “Luther’s Cradle Hymn,” given to these words by the composer, James Murray, in his Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (Cincinnati, Ohio: The John Church Co., 1887). Verse 3 is by John T. McFarland (1851-1913).The third verse appeared with a tune by Charles H. Gabriel (simply marked "C"),Therefore these words are probably by Charles Gabriel. He credited the entire text to Luther and gave it the title "Cradle Song." This verse is sometimes attributed to Dr. John McFarland, but since the popular story dates his contribution to 1904 (postdating the 1892 printing by 12 years), his contribution is highly questionable.

Version three will appear next week. Please keep your suggestions coming in.

Enjoy the videos.

By Bob Tallent

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