Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas music and carols

Carols illustration for article in VNDThe Valley News Dispatch had an article about the histories of twelve different pieces of Christmas music we are all likely to hear a number of times before the season is done.

I was slightly surprised that the author described all twelve songs as "carols". I realize people are increasingly used to thinking of carols as music associated with Christmas (see, for example, the Wordnet listing here, as opposed to the American Heritage Dictionary listing at the top of the same page.) The Wikipedia has a good explanation of the musical meaning of "carol" here. What is significant about a carol is not the specific season with which it is associated, but the joyful and bright way in which it would be sung and possibly accompanied by dance.

Of the twelve songs listed I would count only six as proper carols:
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Here We Come A-Wassailing
  • I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
  • Joy to the World
Of the rest, three are clearly Christmas hymns:
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Silent Night
And the remaining three are beloved Christmas songs:
  • I heard the bells on Christmas Day
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • White Christmas
This was a good article, that pointed to the variety of sources of the music people treasure during the holiday season. Given the currently embarrassing "War for Christmas" being waged by some sadly misguided individuals, I thought the history behind "White Christmas" was particularly significant as the story of a Jewish songwriter who wanted to find a way to capture in words and music the nostalgic feelings about Christmas as experienced by Christians.

File under : ,

No comments: