December 2007

Origins of Various Christmas Songs

Silent Night is a poem that was written in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. On Christmas Eve in 1818 in the small alpine village called Oberndorf it is reputed that the organ at St. Nicholas Church had broken. Joseph Mohr gave the poem of Silent Night to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed with this in mind. The music to Silent Night was originally intended for a guitar and the simple score was finished in time for Midnight Mass.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was first published in 1833 when it appeared in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern," a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys. The lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are traditional olde English and are reputed to date back to the 15th century although the author is unknown.. It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen continues to be enjoyed. The lyrics to this simple carol are reputed to be one of the oldest carols.

The First Noel is unknown in origin but is generally thought to be English dating back to the sixteenth century. There is a misconception that the First Noel was French and it is believed that this is because of the French spelling of Noel as opposed to the olde English Anglo-Saxon spelling of the word as in Nowell. After England was captured by the Normans numerous words were adopted from the Norman French language and Noel was re-spelt as Nowell, early printed versions of this carol use the Nowell spelling. The First Noel was first published in 1833 when it appeared in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern," a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys.

Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) of Philadelphia, wrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868, following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine especially at night time hence the lyrics of O Little Town of Bethlehem. His church organist Lewis Redner (1831-1908) wrote the melody to O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children's choir.

Away in a Manager is often the first carol that children are taught. Away in a Manger was originally published in 1885. The publication of Away in a Manger was in a Lutheran Sunday school book and this created the misconception that the lyrics of Away in a Manger were actually written by Martin Luther himself. The author is unknown. The music to Away in a Manger was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895.

The words to the carol O Come All Ye Faithful was originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles) and was intended to be a hymn, it is attributed to John Wade, an Englishman. The music to O Come All Ye Faithful was composed by fellow Englishman John Reading in the early 1700s. The tune was first published in a collection known as "Cantus Diversi" in 1751. In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley is reputed to have worked on the familiar translation of O Come All Ye Faithful which replaced the older Latin lyrics "Adeste Fideles".

The words and lyrics for All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth are by Don Gardner. The first publication of the Christmas song All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth was in 1946.

Believe it or not Jingle Bells , one of the most famous American Christmas songs, was originally written for Thanksgiving! The author and composer of Jingle Bells was minister James Pierpoint who composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating his Boston Sunday School Thanksgiving. The song was so popular that it was repeated at Christmas, and indeed Jingle Bells has been reprised ever since. The essence of a traditional Christmas is captured in the lyrics of Jingle Bells and the sound effects using the bells have become synonymous with the arrival of Father Christmas or Santa Claus to the delight of children of all ages.

The words and music to the Christmas song Little Drummer Boy was composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958. The lyrics of Little Drummer Boy consist of no less than 21 rum pum pum pum' - a major part of the song and therefore presenting an apparently easy task for the lyricist! However, Little Drummer Boy has been a huge hit for several artists. The most notable rendition was created by the most unlikely combination of Bing Crosby and David Bowie. This version of Little Drummer Boy was a massive hot for the artists and was in fact Bing Crosby's most successful recording since the legendary White Christmas.

Religious symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas

    1 True Love refers to God

    2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments

    3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

    4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

    5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

    6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

    7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

    8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

    9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

    10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

    11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

    12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

The famous Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started life as a poem created by an American advertising executive Robert May. He was requested to produce a poem that could be given away to children by the Santa Claus employed by Department Stores at Christmas! Working as an Advertising Executive Robert May had a natural flair with words and was able to compose the Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer poem which was specifically designed to appeal to children. This marketing ploy was a massive success and approximately 2.5 million Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer poems were given away in the first year of its publication! In 1949 the singer Gene Autry recorded a musical version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer composed by Johnny Marks.

The famous Christmas song Winter Wonderland was first published in 1934. The composer was Felix Bernard (1897-1944) and the lyricist was Richard B. Smith (1901-1935). Probably the most popular versions of this classic Christmas song, Winter Wonderland, were recorded to high acclaim by the Andrews Sisters and Perry Como. The lyrics of Winter Wonderland have undoubtedly contributed to the magical vision of snow at Christmas together with the tradition of building snowmen and therefore turning fantasy into reality by creating a real Winter Wonderland.

The song White Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most famous and popular of all the Christmas songs. The music and lyrics for White Christmas were written by Irving Berlin in 1942 and originally featured in the movie Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby. The lyrics of White Christmas struck a chord with the soldiers fighting in the Second World War and their families who were waiting for them back home. The song and recording of White Christmas by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter's orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers was so popular that it was later reprised in the movie called after its name - White Christmas. The film White Christmas once again starred Bing Crosby together with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was first published in 1833 when it appeared in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern," a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys. The lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are traditional olde English and are reputed to date back to the 15th century although the author is unknown.. It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen continues to be enjoyed. The lyrics to this simple carol are reputed to be one of the oldest carols.

Mel Torme wrote The Christmas Song - Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose - first recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, is a true Christmas standard.

According to Mel Torme, on a hot summer day, he saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil. They started, `Chestnuts roasting ... Jack Frost nipping ... Yuletide carols ... Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Friend Robert Wells had written these lines in an attempt to cool off, at least mentally. Forty minutes later, the classic Christmas song was written.

 
An Estate Auction Tale
Several years ago, at an estate auction, one of the many items offered was a late 1800's home organ. Many of the keys were missing, and one of the sides was broken into pieces. It looked like someone had spray painted it with black paint. While it was in very poor condition, I saw some potential in it. Not for the organ itself - it was beyond restoring - but in the shelving attached to the top of it. When the item came up for bid, unfortunately, there was another bidder interested in it. I got carried away in my desire to have it, and ran the bid up to $200. I won. At first I felt buyer's remorse but later I was glad I made the purchase. At the time I had a van with no seats behind the driver's and passenger seats. I loaded the broken-down organ into it and drove home. When I arrived home, I took a hammer and pry bar to it to dissassemble it. I threw away the entire bottom portion and only kept the top.

Next, I stripped it and was happy that the wood was solid walnut! Two of the finials were missing as well as one of the posts and the mirror. On my lathe I replicated the two finials and post from Walnut dowels. The wood did not need staining. I finished off the project with several coats of polyurethane. I then had elaborate shelving. A photo is below. (Unfortunately, I did not take any "before" photos.)



 

November Contest


PRIZE QUESTION: Who was the youngest First Lady (wife of the president while in office)?

GRAND PRIZE ANSWER: Frances Folsom Cleveland was the youngest First Lady, being just 21 years of age when she married Grover Cleveland.


One-hundred-seventeen people entered the contest. Fifty-eight were disqualified due to an incorrect subject heading, incorrect answer, or negelcted to select a prize if they won. In one case the winner was notified they had won and I asked him to email the address he wanted his prize mailed to. A week went by with no response. I then sent a second email notice giving him 5 days to respond but he didn't responded. Thus, I selected a new winner. He responded in time. Please do not enter the contests if you do not want to win the prize! All prizes were claimed.
The November Contest Winners Were:
  • Michael May - Idaho
  • Linda Balazs - New York
  • Steve Sanders - Louisiana
  • Arlena Thomas - California
  • Noreen Marchand - Connecticut
  • Ed Herbert - New York
  • Lu Paletta - Michigan
  • Paul R. Girard - New Hampshire


This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Members of what Native American tribe were forced to walk the 'Trail of Tears' in the 1830's?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Which American in history is known as the 'Great Compromiser'?

Many subscribers when entering my contests get confused and answer the Grand Prize question, but select an Alternate Contest prize. Thus I am changing the contest format. Please read the new rules.

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Monday, December 17, 2007. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to help@historybuff.com.

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • You MUST select ONE prize from the list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, EIGHT will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
December Contest One Prizes
(Only one of each offered)

Book
Nantan The Life and Times of John P. Clum
By Gary Ledoux (A subscriber to this newsletter.)

Nantan: The Life and Times of John P. Clum Volume 1 covers his life from birth in 1851 in the New York farming community of Claverack, his school days, and his time as one of the country's first weathermen in the wilds of Santa Fe. He was one of the most successful Indian Agents in the history of the Arizona Territory, being the only person to ever capture the renegade Geronimo at gunpoint while, at the same time, being the west's foremost advocate for Indian rights. He was the old west's most noted Mayor of the west's best known city - Tombstone. And he founded what has become one of the west's most enduring icons, the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper. The book can also be ordered from: YesterWest.com



Book
The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads
The Civil War's Last Campaign
By Eric J. Wittenberg

The Battle of Monroe's Crossing, fought March 10, 1865, was one of the most important but least known engagements of William T. Sherman's Carolina's campaign. Confederate cavalry, led by Lt. General Wade Hampton and Major General Jospeh Wheeler, launched a savage surprise attack on the sleeping camp of Major General Judson Kilpatrick, Sherman's cavalry chief.

Noted Civil War author Eric Wittenberg has written the first detailed tactical narrative of this important but long-forgotten battle. His study features 28 original maps and 50 illustrations. The book can be ordered from Amazon.com

 


December Contest Two Prizes
(Only one of each offered)


Classic TV DVD
Episodes of the Burns and Allen
comedy television series



PC Game
Dogfight: Battle for the Pacific

Original Historic Newspapers


Original Manchester American & Messenger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853


New York Tribune historic newspaper from 1860


Original New Hampshire Patriot historic newspaper from 1868


Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1876
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown


HistoryBuff.com, a nonprofit organization, now accepts donations online with contributions through PayPal or any credit card.
Click the image above to make a donation to HistoryBuff.com. Thanks in advance.



To visit HistoryBuff.com go to http://www.historybuff.com
To unsubscribe from the HistoryBuff.com newsletter, click here and enter your email address in the form. Your email address will be immediately removed.