Monday, January 3, 2011

On the ninth day of Christmas...

With the Christmas season on the wane, I am looking back and thinking of the music I have listened to. Normally I am a creature of habit when it comes to Christmas music. I like the music I know. And I do not like people overengineering it. That is a common Christmas sin. Everyone wants to mess these songs up.

Let's put revolutionary harmonies to "O Holy Night"!

You know "I Wonder as I Wander"? Let's speed it up!

Yes, I am a bitter creature of habit when it comes to Christmas songs. But still. This year I was surprised to find a few things I liked that I did not know that well.

There is this song "Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning." It was never part of my Christmases but I find I like it a lot. The music comes from an earlier song called "Star in the East. There is a fascinating account of Reginald Heber (1783-1826) who wrote the words. Heber also wrote the famous and thrilling chestnut "Holy Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty."

When Heber was born Mozart was 27. Heber died one year before Beethoven died. There, now that we have placed him in context, that is a picture of Reginald Heber up above.

When Reginald Heber died he had just come back from, where else, a church service.

”He retired into his own room, and according to his invariable custom, wrote on the back of the address on Confirmation 'Trichinopoly, April 3, 1826.' This was his last act, for immediately on taking off his clothes, he went into a large cold bath, where he had bathed the two preceding mornings, but which was now the destined agent of his removal to Paradise. Half an hour after, his servant, alarmed at his long absence, entered the room and found him a lifeless corpse."Life, &c, 1830, vol. ii. p. 437.

How about that?

"The destined agent of his removal to Paradise." That is a phrase I love!

"Brightest and Best" is an Epiphany song which makes it perfect for now. Another song I got to like this year: "The Little Road to Bethlehem."

Judy Collins sang it too. I must have been the only person in the world who did not know this song. It dates to the 19th century.

There is really such a trove of Christmas music.

I do not care if it is January. I am going to keep listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment