Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Carols creatively conceived

| December 23, 2010 8:00 PM

Christmas music can do magic. Carols conjure feelings often associated with memories, even hopes.

Recently I was having a particularly stressful day. I popped in my current favorite, Brian Crain's "A Traditional Christmas." The piano keys began to soothe. My thoughts shifted and by the fourth song, I was smiling.

Each carol has its own story, some more human-inspired than holy. Popular carols weren't introduced until well after religious reforms of the 12th century. Before then the church court approved only somber hymns.

Few things are more historically human than a bored teenager. Nearly three centuries ago, a whining kid inspired a classic.

Young Isaac Watts didn't enjoy church. The English teen complained to his father that church songs were boring, so his dad responded that Isaac should do something about it. Isaac did; he wrote "Joy to the World" (based on the 98th psalm and set to Handel's music) and many other hymns still sung worldwide. Isaac Watts' first publisher was Ben Franklin.

If you think politicians aren't creative, think again. French mayor Placide Clappeau wrote poetry when he wasn't running the city of Roquemaure. In 1847 he wrote "O Holy Night." The song was later set to music written earlier by French composer Adolphe-Charles Adam. Adam is famous for his ballet "Giselle."

Finally, the first Silent Night was exactly that. Well, almost silent. In 1818 the church organ in an Austrian village was broken. Disappointed that it couldn't be fixed in time for Christmas service, poor Father Mohr had to quickly come up with a song that didn't need accompaniment. He composed "Silent Night" (and they did find a guitar).

Whatever inspires you, may you find joy and tranquility this and every holiday season. And thanks to Don Morgan for inspiring this column.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. E-mail sholehjo@hotmail.com

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