Tag Archives: acapella

Advent: Away in a Manger variation

When I was growing up, I learned three tunes for “Away in a Manger.”

Two of these versions are fairly common, but I have only ever heard one rendition of my favorite. It is from an album you will hear me reference more than once in this series. It is “Home for Christmas,” and it is a compilation holiday album produced by The Book of the Month Club back in 1982. Individual tracks can be found on other albums, but the whole is tough to find. You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

“Away In a Manger,” as sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt, is a very different song. Instead of being mild and sweet (sometimes too sweet for my tastes), it is haunting. You can buy their rendition here, on the Shout For Joy album.

Away in a Manger
by unknown writer, misattributed to Martin Luther

.

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.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.

I love thee, Lord Jesus. Look down from the sky!

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

.

Listen here:  Away In a Manger, sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt

Even with the poor quality of the recording (taken from an album loved nearly into nonexistence), if this doesn’t give you chills, I will be very much surprised.


Advent: O Magnum Mysterium

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love Christmas. Not the commercialism, insanity, or kitsch associated with it, but the time with my family, the music and carols that I like (usually not the ones heard in department stores), the food, the warmth, the giving and the sparkles.

My ideal Christmas is simple, intimate and serene. I like time to contemplate the birth of my Savior and its surrounding events, and I like time spent with kith and kin.

In the spirit of this kind of Christmas celebration, I decided to have my own little Advent Countdown on my blog. As music is one of my favorite aspects of this holiday, I will post some of my favorite carols through December 25th. I wanted to do this daily, but time simply will not allow. Therefore, I will confine myself to three posts a week, plus one extra for Christmas Eve. This leaves me with a lot of beloved songs un-shared, but perhaps I can make this a yearly tradition.

May these posts bring you joy!

First, a song that I grew up with, one that captures some of the Great Mystery that surrounds the world we live in. Creation is strange and familiar, patterned and unpredictable, lucid and murky.

O Magnum Mysterium

by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

.

O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
Alleluia!

.

Translation:

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
O blessed is the Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

There is a more extended version of this song to a different composition, but this is the version that moves me the most. Just listen to the following performance by New York Polyphony:

Video © New York Polyphony

For more beautiful Advent music, visit Patty Mitchell’s blog Oboeinsight and her Advent Series. Her starting choice is one of my all-time favorite songs of any kind, Veni, veni Emmanuel.


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