Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Christmas Music Advent Calendar

Perhaps you are familiar with the Advent Calendars that contain compartments for each day of December before Christmas Day, each holding a small piece of candy or a small toy. I decided to take that idea and write a different kind of Advent Calendar – one with a Christmas anthem, carol, hymn, or song, each with a biblical theme, for those days of December. Some are masterworks of the classical tradition, some are hymns, some are contemporary creations. Most are Nativity-themed, but a handful are specifically Advent-themed (these will come first on the calendar). I will update this post once every day (no exact promises on when during each day, but ideally sometime in the morning) with a new link to a YouTube video featuring that day’s chosen song.

You will notice that each item is an arrangement or setting of a text, or simply an original text-based anthem or song. I picked each item in this calendar primarily for those texts – words that I found timeless and true – and secondarily for the artistic skill of the arrangers and performers featured in each video. Where the performances are in languages other than English, I will provide translations. Special thanks goes to Jenni Boisse for her suggestions for this calendar.

Please share these links with your family and friends – and may you and them be blessed by the joy of our Lord’s first coming and the hope of His second.

December 24 (Christmas Eve): “God is With Us” John Tavener composed this anthem in 1999. This Christmas Music Advent Calendar finishes with this performance by the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor:  

December 23: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” The text is a Latin hymn, attributed to John F. Wade, 1751, translated by Frederick Oakley et al., 1841. The music was composed by John F. Wade in 1751. Casting Crowns performs: 

December 22: “Birthday of a King” William H. Neidlinger wrote this anthem in 1890. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir performs: 

December 21: “Angels from the Realms of Glory” James Montgomery penned the words in 1816 and Henry T. Smart composed the music in 1867. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, performs: 

December 20: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” The text, by Marcus Aurelius Prudentius, is from the fourth century; John Neale translated it in 1854. The music is a thirteenth century plainsong. The Sons of Orpheus perform: 

December 19: “For Unto Us a Child is Born” George Frideric Handel wrote Messiah in 1741. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus perform this chorus: 

December 18 (Fourth Sunday of Advent): “The Lamb” John Tavener wrote this anthem in 1971. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, performs: 

December 17: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” The text is a sixteenth century German carol, set by John Rutter in 1997. The Cambridge Singers perform: 

December 16: “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”  Charles Wesley penned the words in 1739, Felix Mendelssohn composed the music in 1840, and William H. Cummings adapted it into the version we know today in 1856. Charlotte Church performs: 

December 15: “God So Loved the World” John Stainer wrote this anthem in 1887. The Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, performs: 

December 14: “The Dream Isaiah Saw” This anthem is based on a poem by Thomas Troeger; it was set to music by Glenn Rudolph in 2004. The choirs of Alma College, Michigan, perform: 

December 13: “Love Came Down at Christmas” Christina Rossetti wrote a poem with these words in 1885; Reginald O. Morris set them to music in 1964. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge performs: 

December 12: “O Magnum Mysterium” Morten Lauridsen composed this piece in 1994. The Nordic Chamber Choir performs: 

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

December 11 (Third Sunday of Advent): “The First Noel” The text is a traditional English carol, and the music is also traditional; John Stainer arranged it in 1871. The Celtic Women perform: 

December 10: “Once in Royal David’s City” Cecil F. Alexander wrote the words in 1848 and Henry J. Gauntlett the music in1849. The Westminster Cathedral Choir performs: 

December 9: “What Child Is This?” William C. Dix wrote the words around 1865. The music is a traditional English melody from the sixteenth century; John Stainer completed a harmonization in 1871. Andrea Boccelli performs: 

December 8: “Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah” Michael W. Smith and David Hamilton wrote this song in 2007. From the album It’s A Wonderful Christmas: 

December 7: “O Holy Night” John Sullivan Dwight penned the words in 1855 and Adolphe Adams wrote the music in 1847. Celine Dion performs (it took me quite a long time to find a performance of this hymn I liked): 

December 6: “See Amid the Winter Snow” Edward Caswell wrote the words in 1851 and John Goss wrote the music in 1871. The Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, performs: 

December 5: “In the Bleak Midwinter” Christina Georgina Rossetti wrote the words around 1870; the hymntune is “Cranham” by Gustav Holst (1906). The Robert Shaw Chamber Singers perform: 

December 4 (Second Sunday of Advent): “Magnificat” Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his setting of The Magnificat in 1722-23; here is the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra performing the first number: 

Magnificat anima mea Dominum
My soul doth magnify the Lord

December 3: “Breath of Heaven” Chris Eaton and Amy Grant wrote this song in 1992. Amy Grant performs:

December 2: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Charles Wesley wrote the words in 1744, Rowland H. Pritchard wrote the tunearound 1830, and Ralph Vaughan Williams arranged what we know today in 1906. Chris Tomlin performs:

December 1: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” The text is a twelfth century Latin hymn, translated by John Neale in 1851. The tune is based on plainsong, used by Thomas Helmore to set the text in 1854. The Robert Shaw Chamber Singers are the performers:


Amy Johnson Bax said...

I just love this, Eric! It's creative, focused - a great addition to my celebration of Advent. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

the christmas music calender has touched my heart and inspired my life,thank you.

Nellie Schultz said...

I finally sat down and listened to this - what a blessing and beautifully done. Thanks, Eric. I've forwarded it to many others.