As much as I love Christmas music it seems inappropriate to play it after December 25th. Alright, I do play Christmas music in my home up until the first of January, but for the purpose of BATTLE OF THE BANDS, this will be the last Christmas BATTLE at Far Away Series. That does make me a little bit sad.
Today I’ve chosen a song that has melancholy overtones or should that be undertones. Either way this song was written as a poem at a very difficult time in the author’s life. He felt so much despair that, I think he was beginning to feel somewhat abandoned by God. Fortunately, he had a Spiritual Awakening of sorts. One of my favorite lines in this Carol is ‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep’.
So, how well do you know your Christmas Carol? Any ideas what my song is today? Well, read on and you’ll know soon enough. First, let me give some ‘real’ (or maybe not so real) background from Wacky-Watchee.
A Christmas carol based on the 1863 poem "Christmas Bells" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The song tells of the narrator's despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men". The carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men.
During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good". Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".
He first wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863. "Christmas Bells" was first published in February 1865 in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields.
It was not until 1872 that the poem is known to have been set to music. The English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used the poem in a processional accompanied with a melody he previously used as early as 1848. The Calkin version of the carol was long the standard. Elvis Presley, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman, Johnny Cash, and Jimmie Rodgers have recorded this version. Less commonly, the poem has also been set to the 1845 composition "Mainzer" by Joseph Mainzer. In 2011, Jack Gibbons, the British pianist and composer, set Longfellow’s poem to music in his role as artist-in-residence at Davis & Elkins College, and the first performance was given by the Davis & Elkins College choir on 4 December 2011.
When I was growing up my parents sent me to the Methodist Church. This first version sung by Burl Ives is the traditional version we sang at Christmastime.
Here is Mr. Burl Ives with ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.
Next is a slightly different version by Casting Crowns.
Now I think you probably know what to do (vote for your favorite and tell me why) and how to do it (leave me a comment below). If you are hosting your own BATTLE (and are new to this little meme), please also tell me in the comment box, so I can be sure to visit your BATTLE.
Next, stop on over at the home space of TSMOTP STMCc Presents Battle of the Bands and see what he has posted for his BATTLE this time. Stephen will give you links to all the other regular participants. I encourage you to visit all of the BATTLES and cast a vote.
I’ll be back right before Christmas on December 21st to give you my vote and tell you the final tally in this BATTLE OF THE BANDS.
Thank you all for stopping by. I hope you’re enjoying your preparations for Christmas, ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’!