Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas A to Z Letter H

Welcome Back to Christmas A to Z
H …is for Holly, Handel’s Messiah and Holy Night
Ever wonder about the carol the Holly and the Ivy? As an evergreen plant that bears vibrant berries even in the dead of winter, holly is a natural choice for decorative foliage for Christmas. Its symbolic importance stems back to Druid times who considered the holly to have magical properties. Holly has lots of symbolism associated with it. The prickly leaves represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries are the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus because of the thorns. In Scandinavia it is known as the Christ Thorn. In pagan times, Holly was thought to be a male plant and Ivy a female plant.
Handel’s Messiah
I love to hear the beautiful music of Handel’s Messiah. A lot of churches perform this music during Christmas services and you can hear it sung during concerts as well. It was composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later.
Handel wrote Messiah for modest vocal and instrumental forces, with optional settings for many of the individual numbers. In the years after his death, the work was adapted for performance on a much larger scale, with giant orchestras and choirs. In other efforts to update it, its orchestration was revised and amplified by (among others) Mozart.
Here is a youtube video of the Choir of Kings College in Caimbridge singing Handel’s Messaiah
Holy Night
In 1847 a commissioner of wine in France, Mr. Placide Cappeau, was asked by his parish priest to write a poem for the Christmas Eve service.  On a carriage ride to Paris, Mr Cappeau imagined himself a witness to the birth of Christ.  The wonder of that glorious moment flowed through his pen, and he gave us the poem "Cantique de Noel" ("Song of Christmas).
He needed music to go with his poem so he asked his friend, Adolphe Charles Adams.  Mr. Adams was a trained classical musician, but he was of the Jewish faith.
The song was performed for the congregation on Christmas Eve.  The French people loved the carol, but after Cappeau left the church and it was discovered that the composer was not of the Christian faith, the church leadership banned the throughout France.
The French people would not let the song die and continued to embrace it--even if they had to sing it outside the official approval of the church.  Ten years later, an American, John Sullivan Dwight, heard the carol and loved its vibrant message of hope---especially the verse that says "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease."  His English translation became popular in the North during the American Civil War.
O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols. I remember as a child watching Lawrence Welk every Saturday night. Mr. Joe Feeney would sing this song every year on their Christmas show. Now, at that time, I did NOT like opera music at all so I had a hard time with the way it was sung, but now I would not want to listen to it any other way!

I hope you will join me again tomorrow for more of the Christmas Celebration
Carolyn and the Bears

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