Advent Listening No. 8

If all goes well, my siblings and I will sing this at my brother’s rehearsal dinner. Just the kind of haunting tune a Christmas wedding needs.

Advent Listening No. 6

It’s sunny in Birmingham today, which makes carols about snow and darkness seem less appropriate for the season. Today, I give you one of the many light and bouncy segments of Vivaldi’s Gloria, “Domine, Fili unigenite.”

Advent Listening No. 5

As you can tell, I love Christmas music that can be sung in a group, but my Christmas spirit isn’t bound by one genre. Don Chaffer of Waterdeep wrote a nativity musical several years ago called The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby and it’s a rare month when the soundtrack isn’t played in our house at least once.

It’s a Christmas musical, of course, but the song below is particularly appropriate for Advent. In it, Mary does what any God-fearing woman would do and demands that the Most High keep His promises. It’s been so long. “If you won’t deliver us,” she says, “let us leave.”

I want to be delivered.
I want to be set free.
I want to get across those waters;
That’s what was promised to me.
Wandering the desert,
A wilderness of shame,
Drunk on worries of everyday life,
We’ve almost forgotten our name.
I’m half afraid this is the story
Someone will tell
Of how we fell ill, but our former glory
Would not make us well.

Don’t make me wait ‘til after I’m gone.
If you won’t deliver us, let us leave.
If you chose another people, and you’re moving on,
Just save us all the trouble of trying to believe,
And let your people go.

What does it take to wake you,
To see you raise your hand?
To hear your justice roll,
Your thundering command?
‘Cause hoping and never receiving,
It wears a heart out.
I used to feel full of believing;
Now I’m emptied by doubt.

Don’t make me wait ‘til after I’m gone.
If you won’t deliver us, let us leave.
If you chose another people, and you’re moving on,
Just save us all the trouble of trying to believe,
And let your people go.
Let your people go.
Just let your people go,
And say goodbye.

Advent Listening No. 3

Though it appears in quite a few hymnals, “This Little Babe” doesn’t often appear in Christmas programs. Robert Southwell’s lyrics are wonderful, but maybe a bit too bellicose for neighborhood caroling.

This little Babe so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at His presence quake,
Though He Himself for cold doth shake;
For in this weak unarmed wise
The gates of hell He will surprise.

With tears He fights and wins the field,
His tiny breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh His warrior’s steed.

His camp is builded in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall,
The crib His trench, haystalks His stakes,
Of shepherds He His army makes;
And thus, as sure His foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps the charge now sound.

My soul with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to His tents, the place of might.
Within His crib is surest ward;
This little Babe will be thy Guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heav’nly Boy!

My favorite version of this carol is Benjamin Britten’s, which you can listen to below. I found many stunning records, but I particularly like this one because A) the singers are children and B) they are British. French and Scandinavian choirs just don’t sound the same.

Advent Listening No. 2

Today, listen to the medieval Christmas hymn “Personent hodie” sung by John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers.

Personent hodie,
Voces puerulae,
Laudantes iucunde,
Qui nobis est natus,
Summo Deo datus,
Et de vir vir vir,
Et de vir vir,
Et de virgineo,
Ventre procreatus.

In mundo nascitur,
Pannis involvitur,
Praesepi ponitur,
Stabulo brutorum,
Rector supernorum,
Perdidit dit dit,
Perdidit dit,
Perdidit spolia,
Princeps Infernorum.

Magi tres venerunt;
Munera offerunt;
Parvulum inquirunt,
Stellulam sequendo,
Ipsum adorando,
Aurum, thus thus thus,
Aurum, thus thus,
Aurum, thus et myrrham,
Ei offerendo.

Omnes clericuli,
Pariter pueri,
Cantent ut Angeli:
“Advenisti mundo,
Laudes tibi fundo,
Ideo o o,
Ideo o,
Ideo: Gloria,
In excelsis Deo.”

On this day earth shall ring
with the song children sing
to the Lord, Christ our King,
born on earth to save us;
him the Father gave us.

His the doom, ours the mirth;
when he came down to earth,
Bethlehem saw his birth;
ox and ass beside him
from the cold would hide him.

God’s bright star, o’er his head,
Wise Men three to him led;
kneel they low by his bed,
lay their gifts before him,
praise him and adore him.

On this day angels sing;
with their song earth shall ring,
praising Christ, heaven’s King,
born on earth to save us;
peace and love he gave us.

Advent Listening No. 1

Christmas is a season of music. From the moment Gabriel addresses Mary, the news of the coming Savior makes people burst into song.

As for you people out there who don’t like Christmas music, my guess is that you either hate the sentimentality or that you’re just tired of hearing the same old carols sung over and over, year after year. I hope to change your mind by giving you twenty-eight examples of Advent and Christmas music that are unsentimental or, at the very least, off the beaten path.

What better way to start than with one of Bach’s Christmas cantatas? (Is that the plural of cantata?) I sang Jauchzet frohlocket at New Saint Andrews back in the day and it remains one of my favorite pieces of Christmas music. For Advent Listening No. 1, I chose the opening chorus, but I recommend listening to the entire thing if you can. You may recognize a few of the choruses as the tunes of popular hymns.

Jauchzet, frohlocket! auf, preiset die Tage,
Rühmet, was heute der Höchste getan!
Lasset das Zagen, verbannet die Klage,
Stimmet voll Jauchzen und Fröhlichkeit an!
Dienet dem Höchsten mit herrlichen Chören,
Laßt uns den Namen des Herrschers verehren!

Shout for joy, exult, rise up, glorify the day,
praise what today the highest has done!
Abandon hesitation, banish lamentation,
begin to sing with rejoicing and exaltation!
Serve the highest with glorious choirs,
let us honor the name of our ruler!

Lyrics and translation plucked from here.

The Charge of the Leithart Brigade

A couple of weeks ago I happened upon a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called “The Death of the Old Year.” It had the cadences of a ballad, and I wasn’t doing anything at the time (or I was avoiding doing something), so I picked up my guitar and plucked out a tune to go along with the words. I had so much fun, I decided to try it with a few more poems. My wife suggested I write nine more and compile them in an album called TENnyson. Much to her disappointment, I more or less ran out of inspiration after seven. For now, the album has been demoted to an EP. You can listen to demos of all the tracks here.

Track list:
1. The Lady of Shalott
2. Ulysses
3. The Charge of the Light Brigade
4. The Splendor Falls
5. The Death of the Old Year
6. In Memoriam
7. Crossing the Bar