The Joy of Christmas Music



Photo by elycefeliz via Flickr

Colin Lowther and Christy VanArragon look English Christmas songs. They look at their history, and why they are so popular.

Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2  

And I’m Christy VanArragon. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

There is a kind of song that Paul McCartney and Justin Bieber sing. Whitney Houston, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Run DMC, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, The Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder all sing this kind of song too. It is a special kind of music for a special time of year. It is Christmas music! Today’s Spotlight is on English Christmas songs.

Voice 2  

Christmas is an important holiday in much of the world. It is a Christian holiday celebrated on the 25th of December. It celebrates the birth of Jesus, the son of God. But it is not only Christians who celebrate Christmas. People all over the world celebrate this holiday. And music is a big part of these celebrations. Christmas music has a long history. It is sometimes religious, and sometimes not.

Voice 1  

People sang the first Christmas music in church in the Middle Ages. These songs were about the Christmas story from the Bible. In the 1800s, these songs telling of Jesus’ birth were called Christmas carols. One of the oldest Christmas carols is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The first common form of this song was published in 1753. It tells the story of heavenly beings - angels - giving the message that Jesus had been born. Here is the first verse of that song.

Voice 3  

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King.

Voice 2  

Christmas carols tell about the birth of Jesus Christ. But they tell about other important parts of the Christmas story too. They tell about the poor family that Jesus was born into. They talk about shepherds taking care of their animals. They tell of powerful kings who saw a very bright star. Songs about the Christmas story are full of hope.

Voice 1  

Some Christmas songs are not about Jesus’ birth. But they are about the customs and traditions of celebrating Christmas. Every year, people celebrate Christmas with special foods, dancing, and special events. Many people decorate their houses with lights and bright objects. One common custom is decorating an evergreen tree. The song “Deck the Halls” talks about these customs. The words it uses are not modern. The English language has changed since this song was written in 1862. But it talks about Christmas customs that people still do today:

Voice 3  

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la la la la la
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la la
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la la la la la la la
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa la la la la la la la la
See the blazing yule before us,
Fa la la la la la la la la
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la la la la la
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa la la la la la la la la
While I tell of Christmas treasure.
Fa la la la la la la la la

Voice 2  

Christmas carolling is a part of celebrating Christmas in many places. In some towns, groups of singers, or carollers, travel from house to house. Others stand and sing in one place. Sometimes they do this just to share beautiful music. Sometimes they do this hoping people will give them some money for their singing. Historically, there was a similar custom in England. It was called wassailing. A wassail was a bowl full of a hot drink. Wassailers would go to a house and sing. Then would they receive a Christmas gift from the owners of the house. One famous song about this is called “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” It is the blessing that people gave when they sang:

Voice 3  

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you glad Christmas too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Voice 1  

In the late 1800s Christmas carols became even more popular. People wrote many new Christmas songs at this time, such as ‘Away in a Manger.”

Voice 3  

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head,
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Voice 2  

Film is another place people hear Christmas songs. For example, the film ‘Holiday Inn’ was very popular in 1942. In this film, famous singers sang the new song ‘White Christmas’. This is one of the most famous Christmas songs today. In 1964 a film about one of Santa’s reindeer became popular. It was called ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Today, this is a common fun Christmas song.

Voice 1  

Since then, many musicians have made Christmas albums. Many people just love Christmas music! The season for Christmas can be as long as six weeks. And there are some radio stations that play only Christmas music during that time. Of course, not everyone likes Christmas music. Some people become tired of hearing it during the Christmas season. But people continue to listen to it every year.

Voice 2  

For many people, Christmas music brings back memories of wonderful celebrations in the past. Christmas songs also make people feel excited for the future. For Christians, they are a celebration of hope in the Saviour Jesus, born on Christmas. This hope is why people are so joyful when they sing:

“We wish you a Merry Christmas.
We wish you a Merry Christmas.
We wish you a Merry Christmas.
And a Happy New Year.”

Voice 1  

Do you have a favourite Christmas song? Are there Christmas songs in your own language? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or at www.radioenglish.net.

Voice 2  

The writer of this programme was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. This programme is called ‘The Joy of Christmas Music’.

Voice 1  

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you sing any special songs for Christmas? Is there a song for your favorite holiday?

Comments