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December 01, 2012
Christmas Carols
I, along with many others, delight in the joy and gladness of carols sung in concerts and church services, but appreciation for the donors of these priceless presents is many times just not there. Most of us do not know the authors of these beautiful carols. So, this is a very short history lesson. When you hear carols at Christmas this year and during this holiday season, listen carefully and simply say “thank you” for these beautiful carols that have come down through the ages to give us so much pleasure.

The most famous of Christmas carols is Silent Night. On Christmas Eve in 1818, in the small alpine village called Oberndorf, it is said that the organ at St. Nicholas Church had broken. Joseph Mohr gave his poem of Silent Night to his friend Franz Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed. The beautiful but simple score was finished in time for midnight mass. Gruber was born in 1787 and died in 1863.

Isaac Watts, an English clergyman wrote Joy To The World , one of 760 hymns that he wrote. Watts was recognized as a great preacher of his time, and he said that this song was suggested to him by the 98th Psalm. He was pastor of London’s Mark Land Independent Chapel . Born in Southampton England in 1674, he died in 1748.

Charles Wesley was the youngest of 19 children, born to Rev. Samuel Wesley and Susannah, his wife. Wesley was an ordained preacher in the Church of England and is known as the greatest Methodist hymn writer. Born in 1707, he died in 1788 and is said to have written more than 6000 hymns, one of which is Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear is said to be the loveliest of Christmas carols by many people. Written by Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears, a New England Unitarian preacher, he was born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts and graduated from Cambridge Divinity School. Sears was born in 1810 and died in 1876.

O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by an American Episcopal clergyman and bishop, and one who graduated from the Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, Phillips Brooks. He was well known for his eloquence, his personality and his tolerant views. Brooks was born in Boston and died in 1893. He wrote this, his famous carol, in 1868 while rector of Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia.

Written in Latin in the 1600s, its author is unknown. In 1841 it was translated into English by Frederick Oakeley, a High Church Episcopal priest. The tune, Adeste Fideles, was composed by a Portugese priest. What is the carol? O Come, All Ye Faithful is the name of this lovely carol.

Now when you hear these carols played or sung this month, you will know a bit more about them and about the men responsible for these century old hymns. Yes, all were men who wrote these particular carols and one did have a Virginia connection!

From Bassett Historical Center to each of you, have a wonderful and blessed Holiday Season!








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