Christmas is an annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and is celebrated by many people around the world with a holiday on the 25th December.
There are many traditions associated with Christmas and one of them is the singing and playing of Christmas Carols and Songs.
So what is a Christmas Carol?
Firstly the word “carol” is defined as a “joyful song” or “dance in a ring”. It is usually a religious song expressing joy and simple faith and is linked to a particular religious feast.
It is said that the first carols were sung by angels, who announced the birth of Jesus Christ. And a great number of carols were written to show the great joy and happiness the singers felt when they thought about Jesus and the Christian religion.
The carol as a Christmas song developed in England during the 14th and 15th centuries. Most carols nowadays are sung at Christmas Time so they are called Christmas Carols.
Many carols have lilting cheerful tunes, which would be easy to dance to. Many are tender and gentle, like lullabies to the Infant Jesus, whilst others are solemn like ordinary hymns.
People enjoyed singing carols door to door, in church services, Carols by Candlelight or to hear them in concert.
The form of most traditional carols consists of a number of verses with a chorus or refrain repeated between each verse.
Here is a list of some Traditional Christmas Carols and Songs sung at Christmas Time.
Angels of the Realms of Glory:
This was written by James Montgomery and sung to a variety of tunes. It was first printed 24 December 1816 and sung in churches after a reprint in 1825. Listen to a version to the music by Henry Smart.
Away in a Manger:
This is a newer Carol written by James R. Murray, published in 1895 with the music composed in the 1895 by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895.
Hark The Herald Angels Sing:
Charles Wesley wrote this song in the 1730’s. Later it was set to the music of Mendelssohn and was finally published in 1856
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:
This was was first published in 1833. The author of the lyrics is unknown but it is thought they date back to the 15th Century.
O Come All Ye Faithful:
This was composed by the Englisman John Reading in the early 1700s.
O Little Town Of Bethlehem:
This is a newer Carol composed in 1868 by Rector Phillips Brooks of Philadelphia following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The music was composed by Lewis Redner his church organist.
This was composed in 1818 in Austria by Franz Xaver Gruber. The lyrics were written by Joseph Mohr. The simple words could be sung to the accompaniment of a guitar because mice had gnawed into the bellows of the organ making it unplayable. Many arrangements have been formed all around the world since.
The First Nowel or The First Noel:
This is a traditional English Carol with the origin unknown. It was published in 1833.
The word Noel is French and means Christmas. The English spelling of the word is Nowell and so the title can be either spelling.
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear:
This carol was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears in 1849 and composed by American musician Richard Storrs Willis in 1859.
This song is the most popular secular Christmas Song.
This song was originally published in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) using the title “The One Horse Open Sleigh” and it used as a winter song and for Thanksgiving. In 1859 it the name changed to Jingle Bells for publishing.
It was so popular that it was sung at Christmas time as well and has become one of the best known and commonly sung American Christmas songs in the world. However it took many years to become popular. It started to become popular for Christmas with phonograph records and later on radio and the recordings of well known artists such as Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. There is no mention of Christmas but it is now associated with the Christmas and holiday season.
I would like to point out that the simplicity of the tune makes it an easier tune for beginner instrumentalists to learn and hence becomes the first introduction to playing Christmas Music to learner musicians.
Deck the Halls:
This is a Welsh traditional Christmas carol from the 16th century but is sung the most in America The first publication of the English lyrics were in the late 19th century.
O Christmas Tree:
This is a traditional German Christmas Carol with composer and author of lyrics unknown. It tells of bringing a tree in side and decorating it with candy, baubles and bells which started in the 19th century.
The Holly and the Ivy:
The author and composer of of this traditional British Christmas Carol is unknown.
I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day:
This carol is based on the poem called “Christmas Bells” by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in 1863.
Good King Wenceslas:
This popular modern carol tells a story of a miracle performed by that King “on the Feast of Stephen” 26th December. The words were written by Reverend John Manson Neale in 1853 and is set to the tune of an old spring carol composed in the 1500’s. It does not mention Christmas.
Joy To The World:
This popular American Christmas Carol was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts with the music believed to have been composed by George Frederick Handel.
We Three Kings of Orient Are:
This popular American carol was written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins and published in 1857. It is one of the most frequently sung Christmas Carols today.
Ding Dong Merrily on High:
This is a joyful carol written by English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934), and first published in 1924. The text was originally in Latin and the composer is unknown.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night:
This carol was written by written by Nahum Tate in the early 1700’s and is commonly sung to 2 tunes. This carol tells a story of how the angels came to the shepherds on the hillside.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas:
This is a popular 16th century English carol with the author and composer unknown.
If you like the idea of singing or playing Christmas Songs like the ones mentioned then you can click on the image to the right of this blog and further up to look at some Sheet Music.
Maybe you would like to to listen to the youtube Christmas song examples in this blog and whilst Shopping For Some Christmas Theme Products by clicking on the top image…all from the comfort of your couch!!
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