Friday Review » Music

Updated: December 24, 2013 17:35 IST

Oh come, all ye faithful

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Christmas decorations being sold. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
The Hindu
Christmas decorations being sold. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

From Silent Night to Joy to the world, a yuletide playlist

Jingle Bells

This popular carol was written and composed as a Thanksgiving number. Written by James Lord Pierpont, it was originally copyrighted with the name “One Horse Open Sleigh” on September 16, 1857. The jingle was apparently because, in the pre-automobile days of winters in New England, it was normal to gild horses' harnesses with straps bearing bells as a method of avoiding collisions at blind turns, since a horse-drawn sleigh in snow makes almost no noise!

Joy to the World

Written by Isaac Watts, the carol refers to Psalm 98. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts’ The Psalms of David. As of the late 20th century, this carol was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

Deck the Halls

This song is a New Years’ carol. It’s connected with a Welsh tradition and dates back to the sixteenth century. Its English version came out only in about the 1860s.

12 Days of Christmas

This English Christmas carol written in 1780 enumerates a series of progressively grander gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas in the manner of a snowballing song. The 12 days in the song are the 12 days starting Christmas Day, or in some traditions, on Boxing Day. Artistes have come out with various adaptations of the song, the Metal and Bollywood versions being the most entertaining!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Written by Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, published by the Montgomery Ward Company, it was the writer’s brother-in-law who created Rudolph as an assignment for Montgomery Ward.

While Rudolph is the only named reindeer in the song today, the song had an added introduction stating the names of the eight reindeer including Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

The Little Drummer Boy

Originally known as “Carol of the Drum”, not to be confused with the “Carol of the Bells”, it was written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. The wordings are sweet and simple and relate to a how a poor young boy was summoned by the Wise Men to the nativity where, unlike them, he has no gift to give baby Jesus so he instead played his drum.

Mary’s Boy Child

A Christmas carol from 1956, it was written by Jester Hairston. This carol was originally written with a calypso rhythm because the people at the party were mainly West Indians.

Angels We Have Heard on High

This Christmas carol was composed to celebrate the story of the birth of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Luke, in which shepherds were given glad tidings of great joy of the birth of the Saviour while they were watching over their flocks by night by the choir of angels.

Away in a Manger

Published in the late 19 century, this is a rather soothing carol and is usually sung to and by children. In the present day and age, we commonly sing two versions of this song, a slow and a fast one. For all you Glee fans, you would remember that in 2013, the series covered the song in the eighth episode of their fifth season.

Silent Night

Initially written in German, “Silent Night” was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to the lyrics by Joseph Mohr in Austria. It was affirmed an ethereal cultural tradition by UNESCO in March 2011.

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