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Solos

#53: The Holly and the Ivy

holly-ivyFirst published in 1861 by Joshua Sylvester in A Garland of Christmas Carols, the lyrics to “The Holly and the Ivy” are centuries old. The symbols predate Christianity and were likely altered to represent the symbols of Jesus, Mary, and His blood, crown of thorns, and crucifixion. The adapted meaning of the holly and ivy are a little unclear, but they have symbolic origins in druidic and Roman rituals and mythology, and some have suggested the holly represents the masculine aspect of Jesus, and the ivy the feminine aspect.

Lyrics

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

#51: Good King Wenceslas

WenceslasThe Wenceslas of the song “Good King Wenceslas” wasn’t a king, but actually the Duke of Bohemia who lived in the 10th century. He was reputable as a good, kind, honest, and morally upright man. The carol is about Wenceslas and his page going out giving alms to a poor peasant in bitter cold weather on the Feast of Stephen, the second day of Christmas (December 26). Wenceslas was perhaps too good, because he was betrayed and murdered by his envious younger brother in 935. He immediately achieved sainthood status, and within a few decades, four biographies of him were in circulation.

The song is based on a 13th century springtime carol sung in Latin, “Tempus adest floridum,” or “It is time for flowering.” In 1853, John Mason Neale selected Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to illustrate Christian generosity.

Recorded live @ McKay-Dee Hospital Lobby, December 22, 2013
Equipment used: Blue Snowball Mic

Lyrics

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel.
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together,
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page.
Tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted.
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

#50: When Christmas Comes to Town

The 2004 film The Polar Express is based on the 1985 children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. It is a story of a young boy who no longer believes in Christmas. A train going to the North Pole appears outside his house, and he boards it at the request of the conductor. He experiences an adventure with other children, and ultimately meets Santa Claus and becomes a true believer. The song “When Christmas Comes to Town” is sung by a boy and a girl on the Polar Express. The boy is disheartened because he hasn’t experienced Christmas, while the girl reassures him with depictions of the joyous parts of the holiday. The song for The Polar Express soundtrack was sung by Matthew Hall and Meagan Moore.

Recorded live @ McKay-Dee Hospital Lobby, December 22, 2013
Equipment used: Blue Snowball Mic

Lyrics

I’m wishing on a star
And trying to believe,
That even though it’s far
He’ll find me Christmas Eve.

I guess that Santa’s busy
‘Cause he’s never come around.
I think of him
When Christmas comes to town.

The best time of the year,
When everyone comes home.
With all this Christmas cheer
It’s hard to be alone.

Putting up the Christmas tree
With friends who come around.
It’s so much fun
When Christmas comes to town.

Presents for the children
Wrapped in red and green.
All the things I’ve heard about
But never really seen.
No one will be sleeping on
The night of Christmas Eve,
Hoping Santa’s on his way.

When Santa’s sleigh bells ring,
I listen all around.
The herald angels sing,
I never hear a sound.

When all the dreams of children
Once lost will all be found,
That’s all I want
When Christmas comes to town.
That’s all I want
When Christmas comes to town.

#47: O Christmas Tree

The practice of decorating Christmas trees seems to have originated during the Middle Ages in Germany, when people would hang fruit, nuts, sweets, and paper flowers all over the tree for children to enjoy.  A legend was also born around this time that on the night Jesus was born, every tree in every forest all across the world bore their most delicious fruit.

The song “O Tannenbaum,” known as “O Christmas Tree” in English, is an old German folk song. Although the original German lyrics written by organist Ernst Anschütz in 1824 had nothing to do with the decorated Christmas trees (tannenbaum simply means “fir tree”), Anschütz himself later added more Christmas-themed lyrics. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the song came to be known as a Christmas carol.

Lyrics

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer’s here,
But also when ’tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There’s only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

#45: As With Gladness Men of Old

“As With Gladness Men of Old” was written by William Chatterton Dix. He wrote it on the day of the Epiphany in 1858, while sick in bed. During this time, he read the story of the wise men in the Bible and pondered how he could give the story meaning in his own life. For a living, Dix managed a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland, but his passion was in poetry and writing song lyrics. He thought about the Magi’s long journey to see the Christ child. Dix knew well about the dangers of travel in his own time, and knew that such a trip for the Magi would be fraught with peril. But instead of focusing on the journey, he focused on the destination, and the joy of giving gifts. The hymn was first published in Dix’s Hymns of Love and Joy in 1861. It was set to music by Conrad Kocher, another man intimately familiar with travel, and who had established the School of Sacred Music in Struttgart, Germany in 1821.

Lyrics

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

#43: There’s a Song in the Air

“There’s a Song in the Air” is both a Christmas carol and Methodist hymn. The lyrics were written by Josiah G. Holland, a very popular poet and novelist in the post-Civil War era and late 19th century. The words paint a picture of the different elements of the Nativity, and recognize Jesus as King.

The song has been covered often. The original tune was composed by Karl P. Harrington in 1905. The rendition played here, however, is a medley of the original tune plus a couple other more modern variations by Gloria Merritt and John G. Elliott.

Lyrics

There’s a song in the air
There’s a star in the sky
There’s a mother’s deep prayer
And a Baby’s low cry
And the star rains its fire
While the beautiful sing
For the manger of Bethlehem
Cradles a King

There’s a tumult of joy
O’er the wonderful birth
For the Virgin’s sweet boy
Is the Lord of the earth.
Aye! the star rains its fire
While the beautiful sing
For the manger of Bethlehem
Cradles a King

In the light of that star
Lie the ages impearled
And that song from afar
Has swept over the world
Every hearth is aflame
And beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations
That Jesus is King

We rejoice in the light
And we echo the song
That comes down through the night
From the heavenly throng
Aye! we shout to the
Lovely evangel they bring
And we greet in His cradle
Our Savior and King

#42: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

It was a time of intense sorrow and despair in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s life. His wife had tragically died in a fire in 1861. The American Civil War had just broken out, and his oldest son Charles had decided to join the Union cause without his father’s blessing. He was severely wounded in battle after several months of fighting. For Longfellow, this was just an endless punishment. In 1864, he sat down at his desk and penned the poem “Christmas Bells.” In this poem, Longfellow somberly recognizes that God is not dead, that right will prevail, and bring peace and goodwill to men. This is the message of Christmas and its promise of new life. The poem has been set to a few tunes, the two most common being the English organist John Baptiste Calkin’s melody in the 1870s, and Johnny Marks’ traditional melody in the 1950s.

Lyrics

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

#40: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Many fathers dress up in red suits and white beards around Christmastime and bring joy and laughter to their children. But what happens when the children creep down from their bedroom late at night and catch “Santa” off guard? The song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was written by Tommie Connor in 1952, with 13 year-old Jimmy Boyd singing for the recording. The song reached #1 in the Billboard Charts in December of the same year.

Lyrics

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
She didn’t see me creep
Down the stairs to have a peek;
She thought I was tucked
Up in my bedroom fast asleep.

Then, I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white.
Oh, what a laugh it would have been,
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night!

#38: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Felix Mendelssohn composed the tune to this song in 1840, but the original tune was a solemn one written by Charles Wesley at the inception of the carol one hundred years earlier in 1739. The lyrics have changed as well. The original lyrics by Wesley read “Hark, how all the welkin [heaven] rings,” but his colleague George Whitefield changed this line to the one we know today. Mendelssohn’s song was originally part of a cantata commemorating printer Johann Gutenberg. The music familiar to us was applied to the lyrics 15 years after Mendelssohn’s composition by W.H. Cummings, an English musician.

Lyrics

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

#36: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Edmund Hamilton Sears was a young Unitarian minister living in Massachusetts when he penned the poem “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” in 1849. It was published that year in the Christian Register magazine in Boston. The following year, Richard Storrs Willis, an editor and critic for the New York Tribune as well as an accomplished musician, wrote the music for the poem. The song has made its way into Christian hymnals all over the world, as well as traditional Christmas albums by numerous singers.

Lyrics

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

#34: God Bless Us, Everyone

Alan Menken, the acclaimed composer behind many of Disney’s films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Enchanted and most recently Tangled, wrote this song, “God Bless Us, Everyone” for his 1994 musical based on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Lyrics were done by Lynn Ahrens, and the book by Mike Ockrent. It debuted at Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater. In 2004, it was adapted into a made-for-TV musical starring Kelsey Grammar as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Lyrics

Let the stars in the sky
Remind us of man’s compassion.
Let us love till we die and
God bless us everyone.

In your heart there’s a light
As bright as a star in heaven.
Let it shine through the night and
God bless us everyone.

Till each child is fed,
Till all men are free,
Till the world becomes a family.

Star by star in the sky and
Kindness by human kindness.
Let me love till I die and
God bless us everyone.

#33: Candlelight Carol

The music and lyrics to “Candlelight Carol” were written by the English choral composer and conductor John Rutter in 1984, and was first recorded by Rutter’s own group, the Cambridge Singers on their 1987 album Christmas Night. The song has since been recorded by many artists, including Neil Diamond, Joseph McManners, Aled Jones, and several important choirs including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It has also become a fairly popular carol for choirs at Christmas concerts in the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. The carol focuses on describing the Nativity of Jesus, focusing on the love of Mary for her son Jesus.

Lyrics

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a mother,
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Candlelight, angel light,
Firelight and starglow,
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

Shepherds and wisemen will kneel and adore him,
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep;
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Savior,
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep.

Candlelight, angel light,
Firelight and starglow,
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger:
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay.
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation:
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day.

Candlelight, angel light,
Firelight and starglow,
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

#31: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Johnny Marks created an undeniable hit with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when Gene Autry debuted it in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1949. The star of one of the best-selling and most-recorded Christmas songs of all time, Rudolph has found its way into the hearts and delight of children and adults all over the world, and inspired several television specials, numerous toys, clothing, and other merchandise bearing the famous reindeer and his glowing red nose.

Lyrics

You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen,
Comet, and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
Play in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say,
“Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then all the reindeer loved him,
As they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
You’ll go down in history!

#30: Pachelbel’s Canon

Pachelbel’s Canon,” also known as “Canon in D Major” is by Johann Pachelbel, a German composer from the Baroque era. Like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, the Canon remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered only in the 20th century. Several decades after it was first published in 1919 by Gustav Beckmann, who included the score in his article on Pachelbel’s chamber music, the piece became extremely popular. The Canon was first recorded in 1940 by Arthur Fiedler. Today it is frequently played at weddings and included on classical music compilations, and while not originally a Christmas song, is quite popular around the holiday season.

#29: Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the SnowmanA young boy just out of high school, Gene Autry worked in a railway telegraph office in a Midwest Oklahoma town. Occasionally he’d pluck away at his guitar and sing during slow days. One night, a stranger appeared, listened while Autry performed, and said, “Young feller, you’re wasting your time here.” It was Will Rogers.

The rest is history. Gene Autry took Rogers’ advice and began singing professionally. He became well-known for his Christmas songs. When song writers Walter “Jack” Nelson and Steve Rollins saw what success Gene Autry was having in 1949, after his recording of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” they decided to write another for him. And thus, “Frosty the Snowman” was written, and first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass Country Boys in 1950. The song, which is a story about a snowman that magically comes to life and enjoys some adventures with children, was an instant hit. It has seen numerous recordings after Autry, as well as adaptations into TV shows, and has worked its way into the standard musical repertoire of Christmas favorites.

Lyrics

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
Know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.
O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
And play just the same as you and me.
Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty the snowman knew
The sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run and
We’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”
Down to the village,
With a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
Around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler “Stop!”
For Frosty the snow man
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.”
Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpety thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

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Feel free to email me at christmas@justinreeve.com.