s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Christmas carols: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Friday, March 27, 2009

Christmas carols: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Sorry about missing last week's post. I was cavorting in Indiana and didn't have time to do a Christmas carols post.

The carols in the The New Oxford Book of Carols are arranged chronologically by the oldest known version of the song. Veni, veni, Emanuel isn't the first song in the book, but it is the first song that I know. (It may also be the earliest song that I'm able to find recorded on YouTube, since the others strike me as fairly obscure.)

Many Christmas carols celebrate Christ's birth joyfully. This song, by contrast, is a plaintive melody sung by those who are still waiting for Christ to come and liberate them from captivity.

Another beautiful thing about this hymn is how every verse addresses Christ using a different name for Him. He is referred to as "Emmanuel," "the Branch of Jesse," "the Dayspring," "the Key of David," and "Adonai."

One of the things I like best about this song is how very old it sounds, and yet how it works well in modern arrangements. I've accordingly tried to find a range of recordings and I've put them roughly in order from more traditional to more modern.

solo guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIc0cKzCQ2M ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z0NjFEVels
electric guitar:


A very traditional arrangement.

Aled Jones:

An a capella version.

Christina Sonneman, 2007:

A version for harp and voice. The sound quality on this isn't great, but I think it's still a lovely arrangement.

Bonus: Future of Forestry, 2008:

Because everyone loves rock versions of Christmas carols, right?

Honorable Mention: A trio of guitar solos: Satiel on electric guitar, and "Latin Guy" and "lladnekj" on acoustic guitar. Also Sufjan Stevens, on Optimistic.'s recommendation.


At March 27, 2009 6:58 PM, Blogger Optimistic. said...

Have you heard the Sufjan Stevens version of this song? It's absolutely beautiful, and think it would be well included in your montage here.


At March 27, 2009 9:09 PM, Blogger Whistler said...

This is my favorite Christmas hymn. I like the sufjan stevens version, as well as Belle & Sebastian's. And the ones you have are good too.

At March 30, 2009 2:23 PM, Blogger Melyngoch said...

This and In the Bleak Midwinter are my favorite Christmas songs, most of the time.

At March 31, 2009 4:01 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Op. - I've added it.

At March 31, 2009 11:40 PM, Blogger The Dancing Newt said...

I wish there were a version with some deep-voiced monks singing it. I have searched in vain for something like that. I feel that is how the song is meant to be sung.

This one is also one of my favorites.


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