Christmas Music: Songs from France and Italy

If this is the last week your children are in school — you have all of my sympathy, support, and a bag of cookies (very big bag of cookies!). I think this is the hardest week of the year, at least for me. I feel like we have to army crawl with one arm over the finish line on Friday.

This year, I started backwards clicking on my Family Search profile. To my surprise I found that we have several lines of French and Italian ancestors. One of these ancestors was Queen Beatrice of Provence — one of the four sister queens of Medieval Europe. I recommend reading the story of these four sisters, it’s very interesting. Europe as we know it today did not always exist. In the Middle Ages, country and regional boundaries were very different. The area of Southern France, known as modern day Provence was not part of France. France was the area around Paris. In Provence they spoke Occitan which is a romance language, that sounds sort of French, but not all the way. This area had more in common with Italy than Paris. We assign these carols to the French and Italians, but their origins are not necessarily the France and Italy that we know today. Still they are so beautiful and celebrate our Savior Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Christmas Music: The Cradle in Bethlehem

Luke 2: 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.” We know Christ was born into humble circumstances. There is some debate and scholarly study on what those circumstances actually were. Was the Savior’s birth in a barn? In a guest room? The family room? We won’t know that till He comes again and tells us.

I found this sweet story titled, Jesus is Born, in an old issue of the Liahona:

“Mary wrapped her baby in clean swaddling clothes and made a little bed for Him in the soft, clean hay of the manger. Joseph knew that this baby was the Son of Heavenly Father. He named the baby Jesus, just as an angel had told him earlier.

The angels of heaven rejoiced! The prophets’ promises were fulfilled. Jehovah, now called Jesus, had been born on earth. A new star shone in the heavens to announce the good news.

On a hillside an angel appeared to shepherds, and a bright light shone all around. The shepherds had never seen such a thing, and they were very afraid. Continue reading

Christmas Music: Songs of Faith and Joy

Two themes that run thru the scriptures are faith and by extension keeping the commandments, and having joy or being joyful as a the blessing for your efforts. These themes are also part of celebrating Christmas. All thru his ministry the Savior invited people to “Come follow him”, and keep His commandments, make covenants and be party to the blessings He has to offer us. These scriptures are just some of the many examples of Christ’s invitation to come follow Him and be joyful:

Matthew 4: 19-20, “And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Mark 8: 34, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Luke 9: 23, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

2 Nephi 31: 10, “And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

Matthew 11: 28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Isaiah 55: 3, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Continue reading

Christmas Music: Mary and Joseph

I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Mary and Joseph. They are such an important part of the Christmas story, and even they are starting to get the politically correct treatment lately from spiritual skeptics and naysayers. But, they were good, righteous people who willingly accepted the will of the Lord and bore and raised Jesus Christ. They were chosen to be the earthly parents of our Savior — what a humbling assignment to have.

The first song, I’m sharing with you today is called Mary’s Lullaby, by Wanda West Palmer. Sister Palmer was actually in my ward growing up. She and my mom used to write award winning road shows. She was a fun person, and always invited you to sit at her piano and sing when you came over to her house. The words to the song were adapted from a poem by Bertha A. Kleinman called a “A Yuletide Lullaby”. Sister Kleinman also wrote the words for the Primary song, “I Have Two Little Hands”. Sister Kleinman gave the poem to Sister Palmer because she thought it would be nice if it were set to music. Sister Palmer carried the paper with the poem around in her purse for two years, trying to come up with a tune, to no avail. One day she figured it out, just put the refrain to music, and Mary’s Lullaby was written. If you’ve ever been to the Mesa Easter Pageant, this is the song Mary sings right after she gives birth to Baby Jesus. Here is your assignment for today, go and read Luke 1. This is the chapter where we hear the most from and about Mary — who she was, and how willingly she accepted her job at the mother of the Lord.

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Christmas Music: The Bells of Christmas

I love Christmas bells — they are the sound of Christmas to me. One of my earliest Christmas memories was hearing the song “Silver Bells”. I felt so grown up when I’d memorized the words from a song book we had a home, and could sing along when the song came on the radio. There are so many songs about Christmas Bells, it was hard to choose which songs to choose to write about. Here are my top three.

Christmas Bells Are Ringing — from the Children’s Songbook. Every recording of this I found was not very musical, so I apologize for that, but I still love this song. My mom was the Primary song leader for most of my time in Primary, she always made song time so fun. One year, she had my dad make these bells/chimes out of plumbers pipe for all of the kids — which were my siblings, and our cousins that lived across the street. And one year the First Ward Primary learned to play the pipe bells. We used them when we sang this song as a round. I remember learning and singing this song as being a very joyful time.

All Bells in Paradise by John Rutter. If there is one person that I associate with good choral music it’s John Rutter. Singing his Christmas songs especially hold very dear and sweet memories and experiences for me. This is one of his newer songs The words really bring in the Spirit and message of Christ’s birth. I’ve just included verse one, but look the song up for the rest of the words, it’s worth a few clicks on google.

Verse 1: Deep in the cold of winter,
Darkness and silence were everywhere;
Softly and clearly, there came through the stillness
a wonderful sound to hear:
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Sounding in majesty the news that they bring;
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Welcoming our Saviour, born on earth a heavenly King.
All bells in paradise I heard them ring:
‘Glory to God on high’ the angel voices sing.

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