Monday, December 31, 2012

The Twelve Days

Following Christmas Day, I have been posting carols and hymns on Facebook, one each day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Again, prompted by my reading in Walter Wangerin's "Preparing for Jesus" devotional book, I have taken December 26 as the First Day of Christmas. I'm not entirely certain how that works. That is, why isn't the 25th the First Day? Too lazy to sort that out, I've just decided that the 25th has to be the Feast Day of the Nativity, and then take Wangerin's word for the counting. Hey, I'm on Christmas break, and my church life does not (yet) require of me this level of liturgical sophistication. Would that it may, in future.

The 12th day, then, will be January 6, the Epiphany. With that date's post (on Facebook and again here), I will move on from daily seasonal songs. More's the pity!

First day of Christmas, December 26. I posted Fum, Fum, Fum because of its lyric:
On December 5 and 20, fum, fum, fum.
not thinking about it being St. Stephen's Day, which would have required this instead:
But here I have a thing with the Continental Reformers. With them, eager to observe the "evangelical feasts" - the remembrances of biblical events - and less so to honor various saints days and speculative occasions. But there is St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, with a whole chapter of the Bible given to him. So, lots to pack into the First Day of Christmas.

Second day of Christmas, December 27. I posted a fun recording of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen played by Jethro Tull. In the Lessons and Carols service I planned for so many years, the congregation's voice on this carol was always thrilling. In celebration mode, however, the funky stylings of a pop group seemed apt. The carol chosen for its lyric:
. . . let nothing you dismay, for Jesus Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan's power when we had gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy!
If I had found an online recording with a congregation singing, that would have been my first choice.

Third day of Christmas, December 28. Thanks to a preemptive Facebook posting (from Bryan Park?) I was reminded that this date commemorates the Holy Innocents, the children slain in Bethlehem. The Coventry Carol is the only carol suitable for such a day. It always surprises me how popular this carol is. Do people actually listen to the words? And yet for me, too - and I have"always" known the words to this - it is a favorite. Maybe that's why I have so long been materialism-adverse in this season. It raises the question, though. Since the massacre in Bethlehem followed the visit of the Magi, who technically belong to Epiphany, why this commemoration on this date, and not in January? (The same could be asked about St. Stephen, by the way.) Liturgical calendars; I'm pretty ignorant, I guess. In keeping with the folk music history and quality, I might as well have posted this video. I've never been a huge Joan Baez fan, but I acknowledge her place in my generation's music. And I'm pretty sure this recording uses a concertina, so there is that. Plus, note the arranger and conductor is none other than Peter Schickele!

Fourth day of Christmas, December 29. I just had to get What Sweeter Music into the season, and since I didn't make it fit in Lessons and Carols, that was another reason to keep thinking about music for the season, and to keep posting favorites. What was it with Robert Herrick and all his amazing nativity poetry?
    Chorus. WHAT sweeter music can we bring,
    Than a Carol, for to sing
    The Birth of this our heavenly King?
    Awake the Voice! Awake the String!
    Heart, Ear, and Eye, and every thing
    Awake! the while the active Finger
    Runs division with the Singer.
    From the Flourish they came to the Song.
    Voice 1: Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
    And give the honor to this Day,
    That sees December turn'd to May.
    Voice 2: If we may ask the reason, say:
    The why, and wherefore all things here
    Seem like the Spring-time of the year?
    Voice 3: Why does the chilling Winter's morn
    Smile, like a field beset with corn?
    Or smell, like to a mead new-shorn,
    Thus, on the sudden?
    Voice 4:                                 Come and see
    The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
    'Tis He is born, whose quick'ning Birth
    Gives life and luster, public mirth,
    To Heaven and the under-Earth.
    Chorus: We see Him come, and know Him ours,
    Who, with His Sun-shine, and His Showers,
    Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
    Voice 1: The Darling of the World is come,
    And fit it is, we find a room
    To welcome Him.
    Voice 2:                                 The nobler part
    Of all the house here, is the Heart,
    Chorus: Which we will give Him; and bequeath
    This Holly and this Ivy Wreath,
    To do Him honor; who's our King,
    And Lord of all this Revelling.
    [The Musical Part was composed by Master Henry Lawes].
    Robert Herrick
Fifth day of Christmas, December 30. Because it is an old favorite, and rarely heard, I posted The Holly and the Ivy. It just needs to be sung and heard more, and I never got it into a program at College Church. I made my list for this series on Christmas Eve. I have revised it along the way. But I could not squeeze in the other old and rarely heard option, All poor men and humble:
And here I admit my ignorance. This is obviously the traditional tune for these words. (If the internet is any judge here. I did get a classic copy of the Oxford Book of Carols for Christmas, but am too lazy to walk over and look this up :~) But it is not the tune I learned for the carol. My loss. Here repented and rectified. Marvelous text. 

Sixth day of Christmas, December 31. There is no Rose of Such Virtue is an ancient text, with many lovely settings. I first heard it in the Britten Ceremony of Carols. The only setting I have conducted is that by Robert Young, which I posted this morning. But, like many, I simply cannot shake the Britten:
Not to mention that, in a couple of days I will use another carol from the Ceremony, and didn't want my daily posts to be too Britten-heavy. Another Britten piece for Christmas might have shown up in the Lessons and Carols, and earlier in the Twelve Days. Another time. [sigh]

1 comment:

Claudia Gerwin said...

So, I'm only a week late - but it has been a joy to spend part of today re-imagining the 12 days of Christmas.