Sing Along on the Twelfth Day of Christmas

And finally . . .

We have arrived at the Twelfth Day: January 5, the traditional Epiphany Eve.1 “The First Nowell” seems to be the perfect choice to close our this activity.

Illustration from Bramley and Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, London, 1871. Obviously they focused their illustration on the first two verses.

We associate this carol with Christmas, but if you go through the whole thing you’ll see that it takes us to Epiphany, hence my scheduling it today. 2 That becomes especially clear if we sing (as we will) All! Six! Verses!

“Nowell” (of the many spellings) means Christmas, so the “first Nowell the angels did say” was their first announcement. Other hymns talk about about “singing Nowell”; same idea.

And now, let’s close out the Twelve Days by singing Nowell ourselves:

The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

     Refrain:
     Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
     Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east beyond them far:
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.

     (Refrain)

And by the light of that same star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

     (Refrain)

This star drew nigh to the north-west;
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

     (Refrain)

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon their knee,3
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

     (Refrain)

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heav'nly Lord
That hath made heav'n and earth of nought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

     (Refrain)

Look for a final blog post providing links to the pages of all twelve days. But today I’ll close by simply wishing Nowell blessings to you and yours!

Click here for the recording.

Not sure what this is about? Click here!

Join us at https://lavezzi.us/ on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas to join in this virtual sing-along. Care to be a serial singer? Here you go:

Notes:

  1. The Roman Catholic Mass for Epiphany was celebrated this past Sunday.
  2. Any connection between this hymn choice and the name of our much-loved daughter Noël is purely intentional.
  3. Not to be impertinent, but evidently they share a knee. Odd.

Sing Along on the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Elevensies!

A few days ago we sang a song about the pleasures of winter courtship. Today we have another: “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

A dandy spring snowstorm from 2007. If you look carefully you can see Noël’s buddy Zeus charging up the deck stairs. Zeus loved a snowstorm!

As with “Winter Wonderland,” there’s no real reason to associate this song with Christmas, but radio stations don’t run wintertime song marathons in January or February. Interestingly, the song was written in July 1945 during a heat wave in Hollywood, California. And radio stations in the southern hemisphere program it during their winter months of June, July, and August.

When Lynn and I were dating, I would frequently walk the mile from her home back to campus, even in bad weather, so some of the sentiments here spark recollections. (You can let your imagination run wild.)1 But mostly, it’s fun to sing.

And now the lyrics:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low; 
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

When we finally kiss good-night,
How I'll hate going out in the storm;
But if you really hold me tight
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying
And, my dear, we're still good-bye-ing
But as long as you love me so,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Click here for the recording.

Not sure what this is about? Click here!

Join us at https://lavezzi.us/ on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas to join in this virtual sing-along. Care to be a serial singer? Here you go:

Notes:

  1. I would place this song in the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” genre. That song itself has developed a shady reputation in the Me Too era: it’s a duet in which the male may be seen as whiny, needy, creepy, or all three. One hopes that “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” doesn’t come across that way: for one thing, it’s a single, not a duet, and can be sung by either a male or female singer.

Sing Along on the Tenth Day of Christmas

There’s a lot going on in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”

Three eight-line stanzas, each followed by a two-line refrain. A whole lot of theology packed in by the original author, Methodist Charles Wesley, one of the most prolific hymn writers in history (whose original version was longer). A lot of revisions since then.

Originally published in 1739, Wesley’s lyrics were edited by George Whitefield and republished in Hymns for Social Worship in 1753. (And we’re glad he did that: Wesley’s original opening line had been “Hark! how all the welkin rings.” No herald angels at all in that version, which Wesley called “Hymn for Christmas-Day.”) Here’s how it looks in Whitefield’s revision: note the long “s” character.

The lyrics have been set to at least three different melodies. The one we recognize, from a cantata by Felix Mendelssohn written a century after the lyrics, has a nine-note vocal range, making it tough for many people to sing.1

And finally, there are some editorial considerations. Some versions put the angels’ lines in quotation marks, and I like that. When Wesley and Whitefield wrote this nearly four centuries ago, male-centric lyrics were the norm; now it’s become common to make some more inclusive substitutions.

Anyway, here are the lyrics I used.

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 th'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 the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with us 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 Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise all us on earth,
Born to give us second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Click here for the recording.

Not sure what this is about? Click here!

Join us at https://lavezzi.us/ on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas to join in this virtual sing-along. Care to be a serial singer? Here you go:

Notes:

  1. For this recording, I transposed it down into the key of E, with a range from B to C#. I tried E-flat too, but that seemed a bit growly for some singers. Anyway, you would not want to hear me sing it as provided in my music book, where it appears in G and tops out at E.