This is now my sixth(!) Austen Authors Christmas post. As I was thinking about it and going over previous posts to get some ideas, the thought occurred to me that I have not done a Christmas music themed post since my second year. Well now, it is time to correct that particular oversight! But the question is, what to do? As I have posted about carols Jane Austen might have known and my own favorites, I need to come up with a new angle.
And then in became clear. I have often referenced my love of music and singing, and I have mentioned that I lead a choir and sing in a quartet. The quartet is a relatively recent development, but the choir goes back a few years. I had actually stopped for a while and someone else took my place, and when that happens, I am happy to go back into the tenor section (though at this stage in life bass is much easier for me, there always seems to be a dearth of tenors for whatever reason) and cause as much trouble for the chorister as I can. (Hey, they do it to me!)
This year, however, I was asked to create and lead the Christmas program scheduled for our last meeting before Christmas, and I thought it would be neat to share that with you. Interspersed with this, I have included some links to Youtube so you can follow along in the songs with me. They will not be recordings of my choir, of course, but it will give you an outline of the program. This is a fairly simple program that focuses on the Christmas story, with songs to match the readings. I have also included some commentary on my reasons for choosing certain songs. Because last year was pretty much canceled by Covid and the choir has not sung together in more than a year, I chose simple songs, mostly ones that we have sung before. I hope you enjoy this trip into this year’s Christmas program!
2021 CHRISTMAS PROGRAM
“O Come All Ye Faithful” pg. 202 Congregation (NOTE: A staple and a must for any Christmas program. I love this hymn when the entire congregation fills the chapel with its strains!)
Reading: Luke 2: 1 – 5: 1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“When Joseph Went to Bethlehem” Primary Children
Reading: Luke 2: 6 – 7: 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“Mary’s Lullaby” Women’s Chorus (NOTE: This is one of the most beautiful hymns I have ever heard. I had a nasty surprise when I tried to order the three-part ladies version, however–the site that sells it does not ship to Canada anymore, and I could not find it anywhere else. So, being an intrepid choir director, I wrote a three-part ladies version to go with the accompaniment to the choir version. And it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself! I wish I could post an audio of the ladies choir singing it, but unfortunately I do not have one, so you will have to be content with this version. I chose it because it is three part women’s, though the harmonies are not the same and the quality is not the best. But hopefully you’ll get the idea.)
Reading: Luke 2: 8 – 12: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“Away in a Manger” pg. 206 Congregation
Reading: Luke 2: 13 – 14: 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” pg. 209 Congregation
Reading: Luke 2: 15 – 16: 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2: 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
“Shepherd, Leave Thy Sheep” Choir (NOTE: I happened to find this in a book of sheet music my mother gave me in the fall, music she has had lying around forever and thought I could use. I modified it slightly to add more harmonies and give it a bit of additional depth. Unfortunately, I cannot find a version of this in audio anywhere, even on Sally DeFord’s site, which often has links to songs she has written. I did include a link to the page where you can find the sheet music if you are so inclined.)
Reading: Matthew 2: 1 – 2: 1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
“Joy to the World” pg. 201 Congregation
Reading: Matthew 2: 3 – 6: 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
“Still, Still, Still” Choir (NOTE: Another staple, and one of my favorite carols. We have used it any number of times, so much that people were asking my why we are using it again. Once we started, however, I noticed that no one complained! The melody it uses is called the Salzburg Melody, and there are many versions. The Luboff arrangement is, in my humble opinion, the best, and this is a beautiful rendition of it.)
Reading: Matthew 2: 7 – 9: 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
“O Holy Night” Men’s Quartet (NOTE: The version we’re doing is a four part men’s number that was arranged by a friend of mine in the congregation. He’s also playing the piano for us–he’s one of the finest pianists I have ever heard. I will be singing the second tenor part. (This is a group cobbled together for the Christmas program, not the barbershop group I have joined.) While it will not be in time for this posting, tomorrow night when we get together to practice, we will be taking a recording. When I have it, I will post that on my own blog and link to it on the Austen Authors Facebook page.)
Reading: Matthew 2: 10 – 11: 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 ¶And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
“Tonight Jesus is Born/Silent Night” pg. 204 Choir/Congregation (NOTE: This is another where there is just no video available. The song uses elements of Silent Night as harmony with a new melody, and then we finish off singing Silent Night with the congregation. I have posted a video of Silent Night in its place and included a link to Amazon for the sheet music. Unfortunate, you cannot see the music without purchasing it, but if you do a search for the song, there are lots of pictures of it where you can see the music.)