Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 11

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
performed by Sara Groves

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The words for this carol were written by American poet Ed­mund H. Sears, and first published in the Christ­ian Re­gis­ter in 1849. Sears is said to have writ­ten these words at the re­quest of his friend, W. P. Lunt, a min­is­ter in Quin­cy, Mass­a­chu­setts. It was first sung at the 1849 Sun­day School Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion. There are several musical settings for the tune, one of the most popular (although rather "stodgy"-sounding, in my opinion) was adapted from a traditional English tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan, who, although most famous as the musical-half of the composer/librettist team, Gilbert and Sullivan, was a brilliant and prolific composer in his own right. The other, and perhaps more familiar tune (to North American ears, I suspect) was written in 1850 by Richard S. Willis.

I'm usually extremely skeptical when popular music artists attempt to re-create "old standards" at Christmastime. Indeed, most most of the music I have been forced to endure as I've made my way through crowded shopping malls this year has made me want to cover my ears and sprint, screaming, for the parking lot. (Yes, Justin Bieber, I am talking about YOU. And, sadly, many others.) However, this rendition of the carol performed by Sara Groves proved to be a pleasant surprise, perhaps because I have never felt particularly attached to the original tunes. Seeing as this piece has American origins, I think that the "gospel"-style of singing the angel chorus near the end to be unique, and somehow... appropriate.

No comments:

Web Analytics