xmasBy Kathryn Menue


BOONE COUNTY – Tis the season for holiday songs for carolers to sing all day long.

Rock Valley Publishing has a special Holiday Songbook to commemorate the season with about 15 traditional Christmas and holiday songs for everyone to enjoy.

The songs in the book include the lyrics and the accompanying sheet music.

Hark! The Hearld Angel Sing

One of the featured songs, “Hark! The Herald Angel Sing,” was written in 1739 in Colonial America by Charles Wesley.

According to John Turner, who wrote the article, “Christmas music in Colonial Days,” for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said that “early hymnals or carols stayed true to the original form of Christmas relishing Jesus’ birth.”

The original tune for the song was changed in 1855 to the melody we use today.

Joy to the World

Turner’s article also stated that “Joy to the World” was written in Colonial America in 1719 by Isaac Watts. He based the song on the Psalm 98.

However, the melody for the piece wasn’t established until 1820 when Dr. Lowell Mason created the traditional music that is still in use.

Little Town of Bethlehem

Turner’s article states that Christmas music began in the church, which developed music to celebrate the “holy day of Christ’s birth,” and since then, Christmas music has developed into a worldwide phenomenon.

One Christmas piece that was established in the church is “Little Town of Bethlehem.”

According to C. Michael Hawn, who wrote the article “History of Hymns: O Little Town of Bethlehem,” this hymn was written in 1865 by Phillip Brooks. He wrote this hymn for the Sunday school children in his Philadelphia parish after returning from a pilgrimage in Bethlehem.

The piece was published three years later in 1868 and was set to a melody by Louis H. Redner. This is the same melody used nowadays.

Deck the Halls

The Holiday Songbook also contains non-American classics, such as “Deck the Halls,” which originated as a Welsh New Year’s song from the 16th century.

According to AboutEntertainment, in 1862, Thomas Oliphant published the first English version and changed the words to incorporate the feel of the Christmas season.

Angels We Have Heard on High

The Holiday Songbook contains other country’s carols as well.

According to the Center for Church Music, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” is a traditional French melody that originated in the 18th century. The song’s translation came in 1862 when James Chadwick got a hold of it and translated the lyrics into English for more people to enjoy.

O Come All Ye Faithful/Adeste Fideles

The 2015 songbook also contains the traditional hymnals, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Adeste Fideles.”

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), “an English layman named John Wade” wrote the original version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Latin in 1744. The translation of the title is “Adeste Fideles.”

Over 100 years later, in 1851, Anglican Minister Frederick Oakley translated the song to the English version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” which is the better known of the two songs in this day and age.

O Christmas Tree/Fir Tree

The Holiday Songbook also features songs about the Christmas tree. One of them, “O Christmas Tree” comes from Germany.

According to the About Entertainment article on “O Christmas Tree,” by Kim Ruehl, the song “O Christmas Tree” originated as “O Tannenbaum” in Germany in the 16th century.

The melody and lyrics known today came in the 19th century by Composer Ernst Anschütz.

Away in the Manger

The song, “Away in the Manger” has some questionable roots.

According to CBN, “Away in the Manger” was originally entitled, “Luther’s Cradle Hymn,” for it was thought that Martin Luther had written it for his children.

However, modern research discounted this claim. CBN reported that the first stanzas came from a children’s book in 1885, and the rest of the song came from Methodist Minister John T. McFarland in the early 1900s.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

“We Three Kings of Orient Are” may be an old tale, but the origin of the song only dates back to the 1800s in America.

According to a CBN article by Kenneth Osbeck, “the author and composer of this well-known Christmas hymn was an Episcopalian minister from Pennsylvania.”

This minister was John H. Hopkins who researchers have credited as one of the main contributors to the music of this hymnal in the 19th century.

Carol of the Birds

The 2015 Holiday Songbook continues with the worldly Christmas theme by including: “Carol of the Birds,” a carol that originates in Australia, according to http://tww.id.au/christmas/carol-birds.html.

The song, written by William Garnet James and John Wheeler, features the theme of “Orana” or “Welcoming” Christmas.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

In 1849, Edmund Hamilton Sears hymnal, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was published.

According to C. Michael Hawn of The United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is an unusual song since it is the only hymn that focuses on angels.

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In

“I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” is a carol clouded in mystery, according to http://www.christianchristmassongs.org/i-saw-three-ships/.

The origins of the song are unknown, but the first publication date on record is in England in 1666, in the era of sailing, which accounts for the songs great popularity and promotion over the years.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” has a little mystery swirling around it as well.

The composer of the song is unknown. However, traces of the song date back to the Christian Church in the 15th century, according to http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/holiday-songs/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen,-the-song-and-the-story.html.

William B. Sandy was the first to publish the carol in 1833 and has since continued on to be a popular song among carolers.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’s” history is a bit more sentimental.

According to the Gospel Coalition, Charles Appleton Longfellow was a Second Lt. in the First Massachusetts Cavalry during the Civil War. Throughout the war, he escaped death numerous times.

One day, Longfellow was shot in the back, and doctors feared he would be paralyzed or worse, that he would die.

On Christmas Day in 1863, Longfellow’s father, Henry, wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” as he waited to hear the news of his son’s surgery.

Maybe it was the Christmas magic, but Charles Longfellow recovered, retaining full mobility.

How to receive a songbook

Rock Valley Publishing will publish the 2015 Holiday Songbook on Thursday, Dec. 24. The book is free to anyone who would like one. To receive a free copy, please call Max at (815) 654-4850 or contact him by email at mbayer@rvpublishing.com.

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