Seven pieces of Christmas music for your enjoyment

Seven pieces of Christmas music for your enjoyment December 10, 2021

 

Wengen im Winter
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph of Wengen, in the Berner Oberland; Wengen sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is not far from Interlaken)

Although I grew up in southern California and have spent considerable time over the years in Israel or Palestine (to say nothing of Egypt), my “Christmas sensibility” is curiously Alpine. We’ll soon, I hope, be having our traditional seasonal meals of Raclette and of Bratwurst, of Wienerschnitzel and Spätzle, of Rotkohl and Kartoffelsalat and Rouladen (or Fleischvögel) and, of course, of Käsefondue.  And if I’m really, really lucky, I may even get a taste of Norwegian Lefse.

 

***

 

Among the chief glories of the Christmas season is its music.  I’ve already shared three of my favorite pieces, appropriate to the holiday.  Here, I offer a few more:

 

First, something wonderfully beautiful, from one of the most amazing singers that I’ve ever heard:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqm-hf1LDV4

 

The lyrics vary.  (Actually, the song was originally written in French.  So part of that is simply variation in translations.)  But here’s one version:

 

1. Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away,
never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May,
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away.

2. What is that light so brilliant, breaking
Here in the night across our eyes.
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes.

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vieing!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.

 

And of course we’re going to do Händel this Christmas!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f7jhk-IjDo

 

I love this piece, written by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant, that represents the voice (and the humble heroism) of the young girl Mary:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOQRtYYERGo

 

I have travelled many moonless nights
Cold and weary, with a babe inside.
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy Father, you have come
And chosen me now
To carry your son.
I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now.
Be with me now.[Chorus]

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together.
Be forever near me.
Breath of heaven,
Breath of heaven,
Light up my darkness.
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.

Breath of heaven,
Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be . . .
Help me . . .

[Chorus: x2]

Breath of heaven!
Breath of heaven!
Breath of heaven!

 

Next, this is a Christian folk hymn from the American South.  It was first published at Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1811, and has sometimes been called a “white spiritual”:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsVnvN3EVxY

 

And J. S. Bach’s O Jesulein süss (“O, sweet little Jesus”) powerfully evokes the spirit of an old German Christmas, from back in the days when Germany was still a more or less Christian land:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWuuT2-E0fE

 

I’ve always loved Miklos Rozsa’s score for the movie Ben Hur.  And his “Star of Bethlehem” is, in my opinion, one of that film’s two musical highlights:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0cFMotGzUs

 

And now, because I’m feeling rather nostalgic, not exactly for das Vaterland but for nearby German-speaking Switzerland and Austria (and, for similar reasons, for Bavaria), here’s a fairly schmalzy rendition of a nineteenth-century German Christmas carol that has happy memories for me.  The song proper lasts only somewhat more than two minutes.  The last minute or so of the recording is a very deliberately “cute” interview by one of the hosts with one of the choirboys.  Feel free to skip it:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-krz1QVLjsY

 

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Laßt mich ein, ihr Kinder,
ist so kalt der Winter,
öffnet mir die Türen,
lasst mich nicht erfrieren!
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Mädchen, hört, und Bübchen,
macht mir auf das Stübchen,
bring euch viele Gaben,
sollt euch dran erlaben.
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Hell erglühn die Kerzen,
öffnet mir die Herzen!
Will drin wohnen fröhlich,
frommes Kind, wie selig.
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,
kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!
Let me in, you kids,
So cold is the winter,
Open the doors for me,
Don’t let me freeze!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!
Girls, listen, and boys,
Open up the room for me,
I bring you many gifts,
You should enjoy them!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!
Brightly glow the candles,
Open your hearts to me!
I want to live there happily,
Devout child, how blessed!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling,
Ring, little bell, ring!

 

A view of Innertkirchen on a summer day. (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

One of my very favorite Christmases came in 1972, I think, when my missionary companion and I were invited for dinner and a small Christmas program to the home of the Stalder family.  Brother Stalder was a prominent Swiss engineer and a counselor in the presidency of the Switzerland Zürich Mission.  He and his family lived out in the outskirts of Innertkirchen, in the Haslital.  I don’t remember many of the details from that evening (which is amazing, since the three Stalder girls were legendary among the Swiss Mission’s elders), but I remember the feeling of pure “Alpine-ness” out and about their spacious house.  The stars shone out in a crystal clear night sky along with a full or nearly full moon, brilliantly illuminating the deep snow.  There was a profound silence, and the Alps loomed all around us, themselves glowing in the moonlight.  I felt as if I had been transported to some other, more glorious, world.  I can still see it in my mind’s eye.

 

 

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