Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Carol of the Bell-thoven!

September 23, 2020

We all know the “Carol of the Bells”, that jaunty but insistent carol that scampers along too rapidly for most of us to sing it. The recurring riff goes like this:

Ding dong! Ding dong! This carol is on my mind because I’ve been listening to Beethoven’s string quartets, and, having reached the late quartets, I’ve been listening in particular to his quartet No.15, Op.132. In the final movement, there is a segment that comes up a few times in which this same riff occurs in the cello part:

Admittedly, it is not quite the same: the first quarter note in each bar of the carol is, in Beethoven, split into two eighth notes, but I don’t hear that. All I hear is the “Carol of the Bells”! I have to say that this is driving me crazy. It’s like finding a hook from a Taylor Swift song in the middle of a Mozart symphony.

If you’d like to hear it yourself, I’ve cued up the sequence in this clip. You should hear it within the first 10 seconds.

See what I mean? Even if one seems to hear words of good cheer from ev’rywhere, filling the air, it’s still annoying as all get out.

Christmas Day, 2019

December 25, 2019

nativity-our-lord

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at him,
And all the stars looked down.

— G.K. Chesterton —

Christmas music recommendations

December 27, 2018

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, I’d like to recommend two wonderful discs of Christmas music that have brought me much pleasure over the past few years.

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ros-christmas

The first is RÓS: Songs of Christmas, from the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, a group of which you’ve probably not been previously aware. The music is a blend of things you’d think wouldn’t work well together, and you’d be wrong. The disc begins with a Norwegian-language rendition of Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming (called Det hev ei rose sprunge), as lovely a version as you’re ever likely to hear. The centerpiece is a “suite for Christmas” which interweaves the ecstatic melodies of St Hildegard von Bingen with carols, sung in a manner inspired by the Norwegian folk tradition. The arrangements of St Hildegard’s music are unusually rustic, and the carol arrangements are unusually elaborate, which helps to bridge the gap between these two very different musical realms. Of course, you and I don’t speak Norwegian, but it hardly matters: the warmth and happy good cheer of this music are such that it could be nothing but Christmas music, and this disc is among the most joyful and delightful collections of Christmas music known to me. Here is a featurette about the disc:

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rusby-sweet

Kate Rusby has made a few Christmas records, but I’m partial to Sweet Bells. She is a bright light on the English folk music scene, with a distinctive lilting voice and a wonderful way with traditional songs. On this record she sings some standard Christmas fare — carols like “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, the latter given a slow and surprisingly effective tempo — with songs, both sweet and sad, that draw more strongly on the folk tradition, like “Serving Girl’s Holiday” and “The Miner’s Dream of Home”. It’s an unconventional combination, but convincing in her hands. Here is “The Holly and the Ivy”:

Merry Christmas!

Christmas, 2016

December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Eve, 2016

December 24, 2016

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Who is rising in the east
like the light of many suns?
Bridegroom coming to the feast:
eagerly his race he runs.
Splendor of the rising day,
reaching out from end to end,
all creation in his sway—
and he calls the sinner “friend.”

Camel through the needle’s eye,
for our sake becoming poor,
so the Lord of earth and sky
enters through a humble door:
enters through a Virgin womb,
rises from a borrowed grave.
So he wills to gently come.
Powerfully he comes to save.

He comes forth to be our food
reigning from the Father’s hand.
Eat and live: be filled with good.
Drink, and you will understand.
Every morning mercies new
on the altar, grace for grace,
fall like never-failing dew
till we see him face to face.

Kathleen Pluth

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8x10-carlo-marratta-print-nativity-holy-night-manger-virgin-child-angel-cherub-0a73b6374b495009091d13ef58f90569

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2015

Master of Salzburg, c.1400

Wishing you and yours a very happy
and blessed Christmas season.

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♪ ♫ Have yourself a very little Schoenberg ♬

December 23, 2015

Doing my best to avoid “dangerous and disgusting habits”, I am sticking with Advent music for another few days. Here is a nice discovery: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” arranged by, of all people, Arnold Schoenberg.

(Hat-tip: Ivan Hewett)

Christmas, 2013

December 25, 2013

A very merry Christmas, one and all!

Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2012

A little late this year, but no less sincere: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas wishes to one and all. Gloria in excelsis Deo!