The Ninth Carol of Christmas

     And here we are on Christmas Eve. Time does pass us by so quickly. You all probably noticed how I harped on one theme and exactly one throughout this entire week and a half. That of the absolute Greatness of God in coming down to become flesh for us. I'm hoping that writing about it so many times has helped it sink in to my own life this Christmastide.

  To wrap things up this season, I am doing something unusual for me. I am sharing a very modern song which isn't necessarily a Christmas song and definitely not a carol.

 However, there's always room to break the mold, and this song really beautifully sums up what Christmas is all about.

The Authors of this song are an Irish couple who have written a lot of really beautiful hymns and tour America very often. Let me know if you guessed who I was referring to simply by reading that sentence.

     My friends, I had a commentary all prepared for this song, but then I realized the song doesn't need a commentary...the words say it all.

 Enjoy this beautiful song, Fullness of Grace, by Keith and Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townsend.

Fullness of grace in man's human frailty;
This is the wonder of Jesus.
Laying aside his power and glory,
Humbly he entered our world.
Chose the path of meanest worth:
Scandal of a virgin birth.
Born in a stable,
Cold and rejected:
Here lies the hope of the world.

Fullness of grace, the love of the Father,
Shown in the face of Jesus.
Stooping to bear the weight of humanity,
Walking the calvary road.
Christ, the holy innocent,
Took our sin and punishment.
Fullness of God, despised and rejected,
Crushed for the sins of the world.

Fullness of hope in Christ, we had longed for;
Promise of God in Jesus.
Through his obedience we are forgiven,
Opening the floodgates of heav'n.
All our hopes and dreams we bring,
Gladly as an offering.
Fullness of life and joy unspeakable:
God's gift of love to the world.

Most of us will probably receive gifts tonight and tomorrow. Many of us will give them. However, the greatest gift ever bestowed was God's gift of love to the world. That babe the son of Mary. 

   I Wish You All a Merry Christmas 
   And an Equally Joyous New Year!
       ~ Christianna

The Eight Carol of Christmas

     It was once humorously pointed out by a friend of mine just how many of the English carols speak about snow. As one person on a youtube comment feed put it, English carols talk about Snow, inventories of the animals in the stable, snow, and more snow. In a sense this is true and the ironic thing is that there was probably no snow anywhere near the place or time in which Jesus was born. The mischief has been done though. Most of us now associate Christmas with snow.
  On the whole it's quite harmless. Snow is a beautiful medium by which to remember Christ's birth. So, tonight I share with you a snowy carol, one of my favorites, with a different tune from what most of you are probably used to hearing. However, it's not the tune of "In the Bleak Midwinter" I wish you to notice tonight, as much as the actual words once one gets past the first verse!

Especially notice the second verse:

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 

I imagine one of my brothers building a lego house and then trying to fit inside...the house would fly into pieces very quickly. However Christ deigned to squash Himself into a little lego block of a baby in a tiny manger to save us who had rebelled against Him....this, my friends, is what love looks like, and because of this we owe Him the greatest thing we have; our hearts. Not because He made a statute, not because He'll punish us if we don't, but we ought to do it because He loved us and we can do nothing else but love Him back.

Enjoy this rendition of Christiana Rossetti's Poem by Harold Darke.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him... give my heart.

     Indeed, what can we give Him this season, poor as we are? The one thing we posses and the one thing He asks; Our hearts.

The Seventh Carol of Christmas

        We've all heard the popular question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make noise?" Many and varied are the answers given, both lighthearted and scientific, and anyone's intuition can answer the question simply, however, one child's answer has always been my favorite. In a nature magazine question forum where one child asked the question another answered saying, "but of course it makes noise because God is always there to hear it." This simple answer struck me. We can come up with scientific retorts all we want but in the end, the question is non-existent because God is always present to hear every tree that ever falls.

 John Rutter is probably my favorite contemporary choral composer. Last year I shared with you all my favorite of his Christmas works, "What Sweeter Music," and this year I thought I'd share another very high on my list, "The Shepherd's Pipe Carol."
    In this lively song, the narrator speaks of hearing a shepherd boy merrily caroling on the way to Bethlehem. He asks the boy why he sings so merrily since no one will hear him, but the boy replies that though none will hear him, he will continue to carol as it will be a lullaby for the newborn King. The identity of the narrator is then revealed as one of the Shepherds in the scriptural account as he then asks for permission to accompany the boy to Bethlehem since He was met by Angels in the fields telling him to seek out a newborn King.
  I love the message brought by the words of the Shepherd boy,

 "None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely
on the way to Bethlehem;
but a King will hear me play sweet lullabies
when I get to Bethlehem."

     How many things, I wonder do we do solely for Christ's ears? When we sing extra loudly in Church, do we do it because we love God or that we hope the terrible singer next to us will be awed by our magnificent voice? When we help out our neighbor do we do it because we love God and are thankful for all He did for us, or do we do it because it makes us feel and look good? The question is, my friends, would the knowledge that God alone saw and approved of our action be enough to motivate us to do it? It's something to keep in mind this Christmas season. After all in the end God's opinion of us is the only one that's really going to matter!

My favorite version of this is actually sung by King's College choir in their 1992 recording of lessons and carols which they do annually on Christmas eve....if you want to look it up on youtube, this carol comes around at roughly 50:00. However, for this purpose enjoy this rendition by John Rutter's own choir, The Cambridge Singers. Below are the verses though not necessarily in the order sung! 

Going through the hills on a night all starry
on the way to Bethlehem,
far away I heard a shepherd boy piping
on the way to Bethlehem.

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
"Dance and sing for joy that Christ the newborn King
is come to bring us peace on Earth,
and he's lying cradled there at Bethlehem."

"Tell me, shepherd boy piping tunes so merrily
on the way to Bethlehem,
who will hear your tunes on these hills so lonely
on the way to Bethlehem?"

"None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely
on the way to Bethlehem;
but a King will hear me play sweet lullabies
when I get to Bethlehem."

Angels in the sky came down from on high,
hovered o'er the manger where the babe was lying
cradled in the arms of his mother Mary,
sleeping now at Bethlehem

"Where is this new King, shepherd boy piping merrily,
is he there at Bethlehem?"
I will find him soon by the star shining brightly
in the sky o'er Bethlehem."

"May I come with you, shepherd boy piping merrily,
come with you to Bethlehem?
Pay my homage too at the new King's cradle,
is it far to Bethlehem?"

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
"Dance and sing for joy that Christ the infant King
is born this night in lowly stable yonder,
born for you at Bethlehem."

Let us all go with the Shepherd boy this Christmas and worship Christ born for us in Bethlehem.

The Sixth Carol of Christmas

         I must apologize, my friends for missing the last three days. Things got rather busy. Anyhow, at first I was would I make up the extra days. Then this afternoon I realized something....the world won't come to the end if there are only nine carols of Christmas this year, and my dear readers will give me slack seeing that I'm trying to finish up Principles of Harmony while having just played a large role in my sister getting married.

       Shortly after lunch today, my two youngest brothers aged 12 and 9 went about paying me some money they owed which amounted to two dollars each. The older one, Tobias, came up first and deposited two crisp dollars in my hand saying seriously, "here you are, those are brand new by the way." Not a minute passed before the other one, Benaiah, came dashing up the stairs after having spent some time hunting down his wallet. "Two very crumpled dollars coming right up," he said with a smirk, smashing the worn bills into my hand. I couldn't help letting out a giggle at the boy's way of putting things, but then it struck me suddenly how different the two were. Tobias would never dream of losing his wallet and is very proud of new, neat, clean things, even when it comes down to one dollar bills. Benaiah throws his stuff about anywhere there's a physical space for it, and finds a lot of his rather unconventional ways, including the fact that he was handing over crumpled money, rather amusing. This reminded me of the fact that every single person has his own unique perks and characteristics which make him completely different from every single other person, and I wondered if Jesus had any interesting quirks....that sounds rather foreign to those of us of the protestant persuasion and I assure you my friends I have no intention of supposing any sort of theology off of what can only amount to useless speculation, however, it did make me think of the Christmas carol "What Child is This."

   Not much is known about this well-known English carol written in  1865 by William Chatterton Dix. They say that Dix, an insurance company manager, had been struck by illness and underwent a spiritual revival during which he wrote the lyrics for this beautiful carol. The tune, Greensleeves, goes back to at least the sixteenth century.

"What Child is This?" Dix asks rhetorically, but continues to answer the question anyway, "This, This is Christ the King." 

 The second verse of the song has always been my favorite, as Dix asks again, "Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?" But then he goes on and says something rather profound, "Good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent word is pleading."And then in case anyone had any doubt as to what Dix meant by the silent word, he goes on to clarify, "Nails, Spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be born for me for you. Hail, Hail the word made flesh, the babe the son of Mary."

   How often do we remember that Jesus is the Word. That the Word "became flesh and dwelt among us." There, as a babe lying in a feeding trough, the Silent word was pleading for us sinners. What a sobering thought.

   Of all the different individuals out there in the world, of all who have ever been born, there is One who stands out from everyone. One who was destined to truly save the world. The babe, the son of Mary.

One note...I picked the version above because the harmonies are simply magnificent, however, they treat the the second half of verse one as a chorus and use it as such for the three verses omitting the second half of verses two and was a trade-off! Below I share the three verses in their entirety.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross he bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

        Indeed we ought to raise a song on high this season, if for no other reason than joy that Christ was born, the babe the son of Mary.

The Fifth Carol of Christmas

       Heinrich Suese, the supposed author of In Dulci Jubilo, according to foklore is said to have heard angels singing the words and "joined them in a dance of worship." Whether or not this is actually the case, I am in no position to speculate, however, when sung by a choir the song really does sound like it is being sung by angels.

   In my case I first knew this song as John Mason Neale's translation "Good Christian men Rejoice." But many feel that Neale was too free with his translation and lost the feel of the song. I also feel this way the more I listen to Robert Lucas de Pearsall's version, a closer adaption with keeps the macaronic nature of the original lyrics.

  Macaronic, my friends, does not have anything to do with pasta. The term simply refers to a song which has been written in two different languages; in this case, German and Latin.

 Neale made a very loose translation of the song entirely into English while de Pearsall translated only the German, much more closely I might add, while leaving the Latin intact. To see what I mean, take a look at the different versions below.

 First, the original text of the first verse. The Latin is italicized:

In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
 Leit in praesepio;
Und leuchtet wie die Sonne
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

Next the literal English translation. It was when I first read this that I began to dislike Neale's translation. His words are not only not even close to this, but they are so shallow in comparison:

In sweet rejoicing,
now sing and be glad!
Our hearts' joy
lies in the manger;
And it shines like the sun
in the mother's lap.
You are the alpha and omega.

For those of you who are not familiar with Good Christian Men rejoice, or haven't heard it in a while, allow me to refresh your memory:

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ was born to-day:
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today.

And then compare that with de Pearsall's work:

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

       Do you all see what I mean now? Seriously. Neale basically wrote his own song and to the tune. And though decent, doesn't even begin to compare with the depth of the original text.

 Alright, enjoy this lovely rendition of Pearsall's verses sung by the King's College Choir. I don't have a translation of the Latin for the rest of the verses...feel free to google it if you're curious. Or, if you know Latin, that can be helpful as well. For those of you who are familiar with Good Christian men Rejoice, notice the that in instead of going down the three notes we have come to expect in the tune at the word "shineth" the choir skips the middle note and hesitates on the first just a little longer which actually appeals to me more....I'd love hear what all of you think about this in comparison to what you grew up with! :)

 In dulci jubilo
Let us our homage shew:
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O!

O Jesu parvule,
My heart is sore for Thee!
Hear me, I beseech Thee,
O puer optime;
My praying let it reach Thee,
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te.

 O patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!
Deeply were we stained.
Per nostra crimina:
But Thou for us hast gained
Coelorum gaudia,
Qualis gloria!

 Ubi sunt gaudia,
If that they be not there?
There are Angels singing
Nova cantica;
And there the bells are ringing
In Regis curia.
O that we were there!

Indeed my friends. Bells are ringing in the King's court, and someday we'll be there!

The Fourth Carol of Christmas

      I think the most beloved Christmas carols of today were either written in English or translated into it very quickly. Today I wish to introduce you all to one which is best sung in its original tongue, Spanish. In fact I don't believe that a translation of Riu Riu Chiu has ever been attempted.

    First off, the nonsense syllables "Riu Riu Chiu" are intended to represent the call of a kingfisher who scared off the wolf purposing to bite Mary. It is with this cheerful and somewhat absurd chorus which this lively song begins, and first verse is not much better with some rather fanciful lines about Mary, but then the song goes deep.
 Take the second verse for example; it is actually quite profound.

This one that is born is the Great King, 
Christ the Patriarch clothed in flesh. 
He redeemed us when He made himself small, 
though He was Infinite He would make himself finite.

As I read this I wondered how many of us actually realize what a sacrifice that must have been for an infinite God to become finite. I imagine the closest human equivalent would be a young strong athlete, in the prime of life, health and energy, in the best physical condition, who suddenly found himself a quadriplegic old man in a wheelchair who had about every health problem you can think up. And of course this doesn't even begin to describe the enormity of what Christ gave up when he became human. What wond'rous love is this my friends? To give up all that, just to save a few lumps of clay who had rebelled. I know I wouldn't do many of us would? We might say we would, but if actually in the situation, I doubt any human being on this planet would ever even consider such an enormous sacrifice.
   This alone ought to make us love Him!

Enjoy this beautiful carol of love and hope!
As the Spanish Lyrics probably will not be very effective, I have posted below an English equivilent. I wish to make one clarification as some of you may be thinking that this qualifies as a translation for a song I just said no translations had been made. What I meant by that is that it has never been translated into singable verse form at least non that caught on because the song is only really effective in the language it was written in besides being rather awkward to sing in English in modern times. ;) 

Ríu, ríu chíu, the river bank protects it,
as God kept the wolf from our lamb.

The furious wolf tried to bite her,
but God Almighty knew how to help her;
He wishes to create her against sin,
nor was this maid to embody original sin.

He who is born is the great King,
Christ, God made flesh;
He has saved us by making Himself a child,
although everlasting, he made Himself finite.

Many prophecies foretold his coming,
and now in our time we have seen them fulfilled.
God became man -we see Him on earth-
and we see man in heaven because God loved him.

A thousand, singing herons I saw passing,
flying overhead, sounding with a thousand voices,
exulting, "Glory be in the heavens,
and peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born!"

May dwelling on the wond'rous sacrifice Christ made for us, grant you all peace and joy this season.

The Third Carol of Christmas

        They say the Irish saved civilization. Today they saved my blog.

The wexford carol is a beautiful old Irish song whose tune probably originated in the late 1700's though the words probably go even further about two-hundred years. As I listened to this haunting carol, I was struck by the depth of the words and how more of us could stand to sing this song around Christmas.

It begins with an exhortation reminding us about what Christ has done:
Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son.

It continues in the next verses to detail the shepherds hearing about Jesus, rejoicing when the see Him and the wise men coming from afar to seek Him.

   Many singers end this song by repeating the first verse again which I find quite appropriate. When we get too overwhelmed with the world's attempt to commercialize Christmas this season, good people, it might be well to "Consider well and bear in mind what our good God for us has done."

 Enjoy this lovely rendition by one of my favorite singers, Julie Andrews
Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.
The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall.
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God's angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet
      I like to think that as we wrap presents and lay them under the tree in the coming weeks, we will remember the gift of God's son, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, that He might bear the sin of many and intercede for us the transgressors.

The Second Carol of Christmas

      His parents died oversees serving as missionaries when he was six, he was raised by the Moravians and ended up running a radical newspaper which propagated ideas as shocking as abolition! However, on Christmas Eve of 1816 something strikingly different appeared in the radical pages of the Sheffield Iris it was a Christmas poem which began with the dreamy lines:

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth,
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim the Messiah's birth.

   It ended, however with something far more unusual and yet far more profound and in a sense, far more beautiful:

Sinners rung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes your sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

   Unusual for a Christmas song, yes, but, as someone else wisely pointed out, this verse is fitting as it brings us to remember that Christmas is about far more than just a baby in a manger. How many times do we remember Christmas is about Christ's birth? Probably for those of you who read this blog, all the time. How many times does this recollection lead us to dwell on Christ's redemption? For me, not as much. Sometimes, I fear, Christmas can get us wrapped up far too much in the babe in the stable so much so that we forget the man on the cross. We are so enthralled by angels singing to shepherds that we forget Jesus calling on His Father to 
 "Forgive them for they know not what they do." 

There isn't a recording on youtube which comes even close to doing this beautiful hymn penned by rebel newspaper owner James Montgomery. Someday when I have an accompanist and a proper recording device, or, better yet, when I can accompany myself, I'll do a decent recording of the song with all the right verses and share it with you all, but for now. We shall have to do with this recording sung by a high-school choir. They don't sing all the verses and at some point they deviate from the melody but, I think they do come closest to capturing the beauty of this wonderful Christmas carol. 

 As you listen, read through the full lyrics below and remember why Christ came to earth as a baby in the first place!

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King
Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:
Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.
Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

  This Christmas season let us rejoice because God sent His son born as a baby to redeem us that Justice might revoke the sentence we richly deserved.

The First Carol of Christmas

     Welcome, good people, to the glorious advent season. Normally I save songs such as the one I intend to reintroduce for further along in the month. Usually on Christmas or Christmas Eve, however, I thought this year I'd jostle it up.
  It all started this morning as I was driving to a lesson. I turned on the classical station and lo and behold what was playing but the Cambridge choir; it was the Cambridge Choir no less, conducted by John Rutter himself, singing his own arrangement of O Holy Night. I must say it was so beautiful that a couple times I almost forgot that I was driving!

  The interesting thing about O Holy Night is that it was actually commissioned by a French Catholic Bishop in 1847 for a Christmas mass. The poet in Question, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was no church man, his life was wrapped up in the selling of wines, yet still, an excellent poet. Adolph Charles Adams, the author of the tune was not one we would expect to fine in the line-up of Christmas Carol writers. As a Jewish man, the beautiful poem named "Cantique de Noel" embodied a day he didn't celebrate and yet, as a friend of Cappeau, he went to work to compose the tune we have today. The song immediately gained popularity all over France, but when Cappeau walked away from the church and became a socialist, along with it being discovered that Adams was a Jew, the French church banned it saying that "it was unfit for musical services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion.""
     I found it amazing how great was the power of association, and also it seems a warning for us...two sinners came together an wrote a beautiful song, and when the church found out they were sinners it was out with the song as well. What a lesson for all of us this Christmas season. True, sometimes the association can taint the thing itself but one must be discerning. In this case, the song "O Holy Night" remains pure and true though those who penned it were not.
    It was a Holy Night when Christ was born, what Christ did was wonderful...coming down to a world which had long lain in sin, and in error pining.

   This morning as I listened to the beautiful strains of this song, I noticed again how rich the words were and determined that this should be the song to start off this series this year.

  Let us proclaim His power and His glory no matter what betide us this season. Remember He is our Lord and to our weakness's He is no stranger.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Let us behold our King and before Him alone lowly bend this Christmastide.

Friends, Rivals, Creative ones - Lend Me Your Ears!

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the intriguing world of Barbershop. Remember how last post I mentioned not one but two things which had pushed me to stop stalling in the blogging world? One of those things was barbershop music. As I explored the genre this summer I kept thinking how I must share this with anyone still devoted enough to follow my blog after nearly ten months of absence.

  So, my dearly beloved followers, allow me to start by explaining to any of you who are clueless, as I was when I first heard the name, what Barbershop is.

 The name actually originated from the old tradition of Barbershops being the social gathering place in a town where men would catch each other up on the latest news, discuss politics and perhaps even try out a few melodies together. Barbershop music refers to the Barbershop Quartet, an a-Capella singing group usually all male. The style is characterized by consonant four part chords.The voices are the Lead, a tenor who usually sings the melody, the Tenor, who harmonizes above the melody, the Bass who sings the root of chord, or, in non-music-theory terms, the lowest notes, and the Baritone who harmonizes below the melody. The groups are compose either of four individual singers or a larger group of singers harmonizing in the same style much like a traditional choir, this is called a Barbershop "Chorus" rather than a "Quartet." Usually the songs sung are simple and elevate a-Capella harmonies, to quote the statement made by The Barbershop Harmony Society,
    "Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions."

  Confusing? Maybe a little unless you studied music. Suffice it to say the harmonies produced in barbershop are distinct from any other style of singing out there and the best way to realize that is by actually listening to it. So, for demonstration purposes, allow me to present the Quartet, "Instant Classic," winners of the 2015 national Barbershop championship, singing a mushy love song very beautifully!
       Notice how the bass often holds out the tonal note below while the other singers move above him. Also notice how each voice moves independently almost in a melody of it's own while keeping in perfect harmony. This style takes a lot of skill to pull off smoothly, and I listen in awe every time I hear these singers fly flawlessly over these fast paced songs and difficult notes, not to mention key changes and keeping perfect time, all without metronome or piano to keep them in line.
  Another thing I'd like to point out is the order in which the quartet stands. There isn't any hard and fast rule on this except that the Lead and Bass usually stand next to each other in the middle because the Bass is basically the metronome and helps keep the Lead, and by extension the other two, on time, the Tenor and the Baritone are free to stand on which ever end the Quartet deems best. In this case, however, and it seems to be the most common arrangement, the order from left to right is Baritone, Bass, Lead, Tenor. I've seen it flipped, as in from right to left, but the order still remains arranged the same.
  With all this mind boggling information ricocheting around inside your brain right now, allow me to introduce you to another of my favorite arrangement from this genre, "I Got Rhythm," sung by 2016 Champion quartet, "Forefront."

     Notice how the Bass and Baritone switch places when the Bass takes the solo so that the harmony stays unified. One has also got to admire the Bass and Tenor for their tremendous lung power in holding those single notes out for a preposterously long section of time.
   So, now that you have had a taste of a couple classic barbershop pieces, allow me to share with you one very funny example of what happens when a Barbershop Quartet turns comedian. A good friend of mine introduced this one to me recently and I couldn't stop laughing through the entire seven minutes of it's duration. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you will, Lunch Break now sings "Old McDonald's Deformed Farm."
So yes, Barbershop is not only difficult, complex and witty, it can also be funny.

 Once you have recovered from your laughing fit, perhaps you should try seeing something that is a delight to the eyes as well as to the ears. Barbershop chorus's tend to add complexity to their performances by adding movement and some simple dancing into their numbers... for an example of this, my favorite is "Top of The World" sung by Ambassadors of Harmony. Remember that this is all a-Capella and the ones dancing are singing just as loud as those not.
The choreography is very smooth as well as entertaining, not to mention revealing how much fun the singers seem to be having. Chorus's like these make some modern singing groups look rather lousy, what with their precision in singing while having to keep track of the moves throughout this entire number.

 Finally, however, my forbearing readers, this post would not be complete without showing you the utter beauty of this genre. If you are at all like me, be prepared to cray, and no matter what you are like be assured that you will be moved by Instant Classic's "How Could I Ever Know."

  Thank-you  for joining me on this tour through Barbershop....I hope you all were as taken as I was by this fascinating genre, and if you were already in love with it, I hope my tour was able to remind you why you love it so much.

   It was lovely of you to stop by and I hope you will join me tomorrow as we embark on my annual tradition of the twelve songs of Christmas.