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December 08, 1960 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1960-12-08

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iths, Events, Traditions Inspire Holiday C

During his visit to merry old
England in 1820, Washington Irv-
ing wrote in his "Sketch Book"
that he was "pleasantly surprised
one Christmas night to hear the
beautiful music of carolers below
my window.
"I had scarCely got into bed,"
he related, "when a strain of
music seemed to break forth in the
air just below my window. I lis-
tened and found it proceeded from
a band, which I concluded to be
the waits (public musicians) from
some neighboring village.
"They went around 'playing un-
der the windows-even the sound
of waits, rude as may be their
minstrelsy, breaks upon the mid-
watches of a winter night with the
effect of perfect harmony."
Carols Modern
The first carol heard on earth
was done by the host of angels
that watched over the Christ child
on that first Christmas night.
However, it was quite sometime
before mortals took up caroling.
To be sure, hymns were sung at
Christmas time, but they were al-
together different, from carols.
Carols are not as solemn and
stately as church hymns. In fact,
for a long time they were only
heard outside the church walls.
"A carol," said Julian, the noted

English hymnologist, "is a song of
joy originally accompanying a
dance. The word 'carol' is derived
from the Italian 'carola,' a ring-
dance from 'carole,' to sing. The
Italian is said to come from the
old French 'querole,' or 'carole'."
Songs with Dances
Thus it was customary to ac-
company the early carols with
dancing, and many of them were
sung to popular dance tunes, ac-
counting for their merriment.
Although they were frowned up-
on by the church and .long ex-
cluded from the worship service,
they have always been popular be-
cause they express Christmas joy
in language and music which can
be understood and enjoyed by all.
St. Francis (of Assisi) has often
been called the father of the carol.
He placed the first Christmas crib
in his' own sanctuary of the parish
church at Graecia, Italy, in 1223,
in order to vividly portray the
Christmas story to his congrega-
Nativity Scenes
This aroused such interest that
Christmas cribs, or Nativity scenes,
as they are now called, became
common and dramatization of the
Christmas story soon became in-
corporated into the travleing 'mys-
tery' (religious) plays of th;e

The carols were first sung as
interludes in the plays, but soon
they became an integral part. If
the audience showed great en-
thusiasm for the carol-singers, the
singers would march off stage and
onto the street (the plays were
normally done out of doors) sing-
ing their carols.
By the 1400's, caroling was pretty
well established. It gained its
greatest impetus in England, Scot-
land, and Wales where it usurped
-as well as acquired-some of the
characteristics of the pagan Yule
custom of 'wassailing.'
Carols Evolved
Thus evolved the carols and car-
oling as we know them today.
The English carols are among
the oldest and most traditional of
the present day collections. "Here
we come a-wassailing" is perhaps
the oldest, having originated dur-
ing Middle Ages as a wassailing
song, sung during the Yule cele-
brations in the British Isles. The
music is gay, tripping along in
the verse, with a definitely slower
rhythm in the refrain.
"Deck the Halls" is another old
Yuletide wassail song. Yule, always
a jolly season, celebrated at about
the same time as the present day
Christmas, was begun by bringing
in the Yule log, and followed by

decorating with holly and
called "decking the halls."
While Log Burned


The festivities lasted as long as
the Yule log burned, so every
effort was made to choose a very
large log, green and damp, making
the holiday season as long as pos-
"Deck the Halls". is one of the
better known secular carols, and
is an old traditional song from
Another legacy of the English
carolers is the hymn-tune, typified
by "While the Shepards watched
their Flocks," first published in
1592 by Thomas Este, in his
"Whole Book of Psalms." The tune
had long been a favorite when
Nahum Tate wrote the verses for
it in 1700. In England the carol
is still known by Este's original
name, "Winchester Old.
Other Melodies
The carol can also be sung to
the melodies of the American
carol "It Came Upon a Midnight,
Clear" or George Frederick Han-
del's "Ring Out, 0 Bells, Your
Joyous Song."
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"'
was originally written as a hymn,
to quite a different tune than we
know today. Charles Wesley
(whose brother John founded the
Methodist Church) wrote the song
in 1739.
In 1840, Felix Mendelssohn com-
posed a cantata of commemorate.
the 'invention of printing. Fifteen
years later, Dr. W. H. Cummings,
organist at Waltham Abbey, Eng-
land, adapted the melody of. the
second chorus of Mendelssohn's
cantata to Wesley's Christmas
hymn. This new version, a carol,
was so well received that it soon
eclipsed Wesley's melody entirely.
English Songs
"God Rest You Merry Gentle-
men" is the most popular Christ-
mas carol in England. There are
two versions in existence: the Lon-
don version and the usual version.
Although both are popular in their
own quarter, the usual version has
widest acclaim.
The verses of this quaint carol
relate the story of Christmas in a
rather naive but touching manner.
In spite of its minor key, the music
seems cheerful enough to suit the
words which entreat; "God keep
you merry, Gentlemen." The open-
ing line is thus often misinter-

preted, as the comma is often mis-
placed or ommited.
'Joy to the World' was originally
part of a non-Christmas collection,
'Psalms of David,' published by
Isaac Watts in 1719. However Dr.
Edward Hodges was so taken with
the words that he wrote a psalm-
tune for it, which brought then
the obscure work into the lime-
light. Dr. Hodges tune was soon
replaced by Lowell Mason's adap-
tion of Handel's 'Antioch' from the
'What Child Is This?'
Other popular carols of English
origin include 'What Child is
This?' adapted from the English,
folksong, "Greensleeves;" "I Saw
Three Ships,' a modernized version
of an old ring-dance; "The Coven-
try Carol'; 'The Cherry Tree
Carol'; 'The Boar's Head Carol';
'Good King Wendeslas' and the
'Holly and the Ivy.'
Some carols have been derived
from old Latin canticles and
hymns. Such is 'Adeste Fideles,' or
'Oh Come All Ye Faithful.' The
most common theory about the
hymn is that it was originally
heard by the Duke of Leeds in the
Portuguese Chapel in 1785.
The Duke, a musician and direc-
tor, presented the hymn at one of
his concerts with the title "Por-
tuguese Hymn," assuming it to
be of Portuguese origin.
Many Translations

"The First Noel," or, in English,
the first Christmas. The word
'noel' is derived from the Latin
word 'natills', meaning birth. Thus
evolves the "first birth' or the
"first birthday.' So it refers to the
birth of Christ.
'Noel' is one of the many French
words which was brought to En-
gland with the Norman invasion
in 1066. There, on the Isles, the
British often anglicized it, spelling
it 'nowell', where it variously
means Christmas or carol.
'The First Noel' is really a folk
song, having traditional words and
music from the 16th century, ori-
gin unknown.
Latin Carol
The other carol is variously
called 'Angels We Have Heard
on High' and 'Gloria in. Excelsis
Deo' (Glory to God in the High-
est). This carol is the Latin story
of what happened as the angels
sang on the night of the Nativity.'
A hymn using the 'Gloria' refrain
was used in the Christian Church
as early as the second century.
Telesphorus, who became Bish-
op of Rome (Pope) in 129, stated
that on the holy night of the Na-
tivity the people should solemnly
sing the "Angel's Hymn" at the
public church services. It. is as-
sumed by many that this hymn
is one of the purely Christian
hymns of the early church.
'Silent Night'
Perhaps the most famous of all
carols, and certainly the most fa-
mous of all German carols, is the
perennial "Silent Night.''
On Christmas Eve, 1818, as the
story runs, the organ of St. Nich-
olas Church, Oberndorf, Bavaria,
was in need of repair. Oberndorf
was locked- in - by snow drifts,
and no one for miles around knew
how to repair an organ.
Yet, there had to be some form
of special music for the, Christ--
mas service. Franz Gruber, the
church organist, lay the matter
before his friend Joseph Mohr,
the vicar, with the suggestion that
perhaps a new song might avert
the crisis.
Look into Origin
The first inquiry into the origin;
of the song was made in 1854 by
the royal court musicians in Ber-

GATHER AND SING-After waiting all year 'tis f
season to sing songs that everybody knows. Although
now, traditiontal carols spring from many different I
places and often bear secret or little known histories.


There are over 40 translations
from the original Latin. The com-
mon one is the second of Canon
Oakfilley's translations and, ac-
cording to Julian, is the most
popular. It first appeared in Mur-
'ay's "Hymnal" (English) in 1852.
Another Latin carol, 'Now Sing
We, Now Rejoice' (In Dulci Jubilo)
carries with it a legend. It seems
Heinrich Suso (.1365), a Domini-
can monk, so the legend goes, was
one day visited by some heavenly
youths. In order to comfort him
in his sufferings, they took him
by the hand and led him to dance.
Then one of them sang for him
the Joyous song of the Christ child,
'In Dulci Jubilo.'
From France come two very,
favorite carols--one widely sung,
the other equally as well-known
but not so often attempted.
The old standby for carolers is

lin. Only then was the true story
"Beautiful Savior" Or 'The Cru-
saders Hymn' is not primarily a
Christmas hymn, but it is appro-
priate for many great church fes-
It first appeared in Germany as
a Silesian folk-song, during the
of the century, under the title
reading: "Crusaders hymn from
the 12th century sung by the Cru-
saders upon the way to Jerusalem."
'Beautiful Saviour'
Richard Storrs Willis made an
arrangement of 'Beautiful Savior'
which he published in his church
chorales in 1850. Willis used the
translation, "Fairest Lord Jesus,"
which has remained the title in his
native America today.
Other favorite German carols
include: 'Lo, How a Rose E'er
Blooming,' based on a passage
from the Book of Isaiah; "Away
in a Manger," 'or the "Cradle
Hymn," a childhood favorite often
attributed, erroneously, to Martin
Luther (There is no evidence that
Luther- wrote it.); and "O Tan-
nenbaum" (O Christmas Tree).
Even America, young though she
may be has made contributions to
the Christmas season's fine col-
lection of carols.

'0 Little Town of Bett
was conceived by the 1
young rector of Philadelphi
ip Brooks, as he sat on ti
outside Palestine, gazing di
the little town of Bethlehem
served as the inspiration :
poem which he wrote thre
The composer; Lewis Redn
the organist and superint
of theSunday School at tI
Trinity Church of Philad
When Brooks presented thf
to the children, Redner pr
them he would write a mel,
it so that they could sing it
next service. When he w
bed the following Saturda
melody was still unwritten
During the night, he awol
denly, and seeming to hear a
gel strain," he arose and hu
jotted down the notes of t-
ody. The following morni.
song was presented to the E
School, with the 'melody,
Redner always insisted, was
from heaven."
As the songs begin to- r
the pre-Christmas air an
caroling parties gather, no
how cold it is out, carolers
warmed by centuries of tr
behind all that they sing.

SING WITH PAST-When the carolers gather at the Christmas Channuka sing on the Diag they
will be in tune with many past happenings. The songs they sing will have centuries of tradition
behind them and the spirit of many lands in them. The agelessness and internationality of the
season will be shown in the selection as the occasions sung of range from the Saturnalia to the
World Wars.

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