Tag Archives: folk music

Advent: Go Tell it on the Mountain

Here is my next-to-last offering this year. Like several of the other carols I have highlighted, I first heard this version on the “Home for Christmas” album.

This African-American spiritual was first transcribed by John Wesley Work Jr., a choral director, songwriter, and a collector/compiler of folk music, slave songs, and spirituals. It was first published in Folk Songs of the Amer­i­can Ne­gro in 1907.  J. W. Work Jr. was from Nashville Tennessee, taught at Fisk University and directed and promoted the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The version I fell in love with was recorded by the incomparable Odetta Holmes. The words differ a bit from those recorded by Work Jr., but such is the way of folk music. It is more wandering, but still rich with imagery.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hill, and everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is a born!

In the time of David,
Some called him a king.
If a child is true-born
The Lord will hear him singing.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hill, and a everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is a born!

When I was a sinner,
I sought both night and day.
I asked the Lord to help a’me,
And He showed me the way.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hill, and a everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is a born!

He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall,
And if I am a good soul,
I am the least of all.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hill, well a everywhere.
Go tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is a born!

.

Music copyright to Odetta Holmes, 1982

Listen Here


Advent: Brugundian Carol

Some carols are very imaginative. That is to say, the writers were not overly concerned with fidelity to the stories of the Christ’s birth given in scripture.

While I am wary of wandering from scripture in terms of doctrine, I am often glad that these writers dared to conjure images and stories in the spirit of the faith that are not confined to the biblical accounts. They increase our spiritual imagery and lexicon and make important connections across humanity.

Apart from the concept that Jesus was born in a stable among animals, we have no biblical stories about how these beasts might have reacted. But then again, it is clear that the following song is only partly talking of oxen and donkeys. I first heard this piece as sung by Pete Seeger, on the “Home for Christmas” album. In other places, his rendition is called “Carol of the Beasts” and can be purchased as such here along with other carols.

From what I have been able to dig up, the song was originally written in French by one Bernard LaMonnoye of Burgundy (thus the title) in the 18th Century, and was translated into English by Oscar Brand. Seeger’s rendition differs a little from others in lyrics, but such is the nature of folk songs, and that is one of the reasons I love folk music so much.

Burgundian Carol
by Bernard LaMonnoye, translated by Oscar Brand
.

And on that night, it has been told
These humble beasts, so rough and rude
Throughout the night of Holy Birth
Drank no water, ate no food.
.
How many oxen and donkeys now,
Dressed in ermine, silk, and such,
How many oxen and donkeys you know
At such a time would do as much?
.
As soon as to these humble beasts
Appeared our Lord, so mild and sweet.
With joy they knelt before His grace
And gently kissed his tiny feet.
.
How many oxen and donkeys now,
If they were there when first He came,
How many oxen and donkeys you know
At such a time would do the same?
.

Copyright to Pete Seeger, 1982

Listen Here

You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug


Advent: Hearth and Fire

While I love songs of praise to my God and remembrance of His birth, not all of my favorite holiday songs are religious.

This one is not even a Christmas song, specifically. Still, it has about it the air of wind, winter, the warmth of home, and love for those far away.  It is on the afore-mentioned “Home for Christmas” album, and therefore I associate it with Christmas. The warmth of Gordon Bok’s voice,  the theme of the song, and my childhood association with it make this piece very dear to my heart.

.

Hearth and Fire,
By Gordon Bok

.

Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And all the dark outside
Fair the night, and kind on you
Wherever you may bide.

.

And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

.

Wine and song be ours tonight
And all the cold outside.
Peace and warmth be yours tonight
Wherever you may bide.

.

And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

.

Hearth and fire be ours tonight,
And the wind in the birches, bare.
Oh, that the wind we hear tonight
Would find you well and fair.

.

And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

.

© 1980 Gordon Bok

You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

Requiescat in pace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, December 5, 2013.

May we never forget you or what you have done.


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