s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Christmas carols: O little town of Bethlehem

Friday, July 17, 2009

Christmas carols: O little town of Bethlehem

When I started working on this project, I decided that I wanted to see if I could spend the first six months highlighting only more obscure carols. Now that it's July, I figured it was finally time to cover a more popular carol.

The first thing I noticed when doing research on this carol was that most of the recordings I heard used a different melody than the one I thought was standard. The melody I know (the one that appears in the LDS hymn book) was written by Lewis Redner in 1868 and was the original melody for the tune. It's also referred to as "St. Louis."

The other setting is a traditional melody called "Forest Green," first collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1903 and now apparently the standard tune for this carol in England. (This tune also appears in the LDS hymn book as the melody for "I saw a mighty angel fly.")

Further research revealed that there is still another common melody for this carol which was written by Henry Walford Davies and published in 1978.

"St. Louis": Susan Paree (voice and harp), 2006(?):

Tune: St. Louis

"Forest Green": Kiri te Kanawa and Unknown Choir:

Tune: Forest Green

Aled Jones and the Westminster Cathedral Choir, ca. 1980(?):

Walford Davies melody

Honorable Mention: The honorable mention recordings cover a variety of musical genres, including brass ensemble (Salvation Army, Hythe Band), barbershop quartet (On This Rock), gospel (The Clark Sisters), contemporary Christian, (First Call), and The King (who is a genre unto himself),


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