Thursday, December 11, 2014

Favorite Holiday Songs

Holidailies prompts us today to consider our favorite holiday song. I would have a hard time narrowing it down, in particular because it's a question of listening to music on the one hand and performing music on the other.

I'm sure I probably sang it in church before then, but I feel like I "discovered" the hymn "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" my freshman year of college. One of my fellow freshmen invited me to sing in a barbershop quartet, which I did, and as Christmas approached, he had us preparing a number of Christmas carols arranged in a barbershop style (well, sort of--not nearly as many dominant seventh chords as barbershop is usually known for), and going around to all the dorms caroling in four-part harmony. "Lo, How a Rose..." quickly became my favorite for its beautiful simplicity combined with the rhythmic complexity of the cadences that end three of the four phrases. Even though our barbershop quartet did not survive all four years, we did get together a group of male voices every year to go around caroling. And every year, I would get this carol in as many of our stops as I could. (For what it's worth, the barbershop arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard On High" was a close second, and I can remember loving that all the back to elementary school.

At my first high school teaching job, where one of my duties was directing the choirs, I started a tradition with the "double quartet" group of going around campus before Christmas break and caroling with the same carols I did in college. And, yes, "Lo How a Rose" was still my favorite over the six years that I taught at that school. I hope the boys I worked with remember that experience as fondly as I do.

And now, at my current school, I work with a student-led a cappella group, and this year for the first time we will be performing at the school's annual Vespers service, which is basically a whole lot of musical performance, readings of the relevant Biblical passages, and congregational carol singing. So what are we singing? I'm sure you've guessed. Tonight, we had a run-through of the program to handle logistics, and afterward my group had probably it's only chance to rehearse in the chapel.

And it was gorgeous. I'm not claiming any special powers as a music teacher--this is really just a song that, as long as you get it in tune, pretty much sells itself. Beautiful, as always. And I suppose that's part of why it's my favorite carol to perform.

Now, when it comes to listening, well, that's a different story. It's hard for me to pick just one. I have a soft spot in my heart for Bing Crosby, because when I was growing up we always listened to records of White Christmas and some other Crosby Christmas stuff. But I think I'm going to go in a different direction entirely: Tim Minchin's "White Wine in the Sun."

I really like Christmas.


  1. I read this last night, and didn't comment. Over the last several years, I've become enamoured with "O Holy Night," especially the verses no one ever sings on the radio:
    "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!

  2. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" is one of my favorites too. We sang it in high school choir and again many years later in community choir. It's not a commonly heard song but it is a beautiful song.