Merry Christmas: O Holy Night and some thoughts about Christmas

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Merry Christmas! O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol, the first one we sang at our Christmas Eve Service in Glendon last night. Due to spending time with my family, I haven’t done the research like I did the previous 11 days on my musical countdown to Christmas. However, I did find a beautiful version to share with you.

I’d also like to share a few thoughts about Christmas that have spoken to me in the past week or so:

From In Touch Ministries (Daily Devotion)

“As we lay our praises at the foot of the manger, let us not forget that He came so that we may lay our sins down at the foot of the cross. This is Jesus’ Christmas gift to you.”

On Facebook from Taber’s Truths:

“Gone to Dad’s to prepare a place for you. Be back to pick you up soon, Jesus.”

From a little gift book called Practice by Practice, written by a fellow Canadian author, Kathleen Gibson.


We’ve had dreary weather all week – fog, cloudy skies, and . . . beautiful hoar frost. We had a few hours of bright blue skies and sunshine last Friday and I snapped the pictures below. The beauty took my breath away – and I was almost late for my Music for Young Children Sunshine class in St. Paul, because I kept stopping to take more pictures!

Frosty bale of hay
A farm near St. Paul, AB.


Frosty Gazebo and trees
In St. Vincent, AB


Frosty sunrise in December
A view in our yard.


Christ is Born
A scene from the Christmas play at the Glendon Community Church


Whether you are spending Christmas overseas away from family and friends, or in a busy noisy household, my prayer for you is that you will focus on the birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation we have because of His birth.

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the Christmas holidays, but will be back in 2015. Watch for more details about some blog hops I’ll be hosting! You may also want to hop over to the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Blog on December 29th to read my monthly contribution there.


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Do You Hear What I Hear by Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne

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It’s Christmas Eve! As you make last minute preparations, take time to still your heart and mind. Read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and listen to your favourite Christmas carols. Enjoy this second to last musical countdown to Christmas.

Who were Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne?

  • Noel Regney was born August 19, 1922 in Strasbourg, France
  • Studied classical music at Strasbourg, Salzburg, and Paris
  • Drafted into the Nazi army even though he was French, but became a deserter
  • Settled in Manhattan in 1952, working as a television music arranger, composer, and conductor
  • He met Gloria Shayne in Manhattan while she was playing the piano in the dining room of a hotel
  • They married a month after they met
  • They composed many songs together. Usually Gloria wrote the lyrics and Noel wrote the music.

The Story behind Do You Hear What I Hear?

  • Written in October 1962
  • A plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Regney wrote the lyrics and Shayne wrote the music
  • The lyrics were written after Regney watched babies being pushed in strollers in New York City
  • Sold more than a quarter-million copies in the first week it was released
  • Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1963
  • The song has been recorded many times since

Here’s a version with some sand art

Historical Context

  • Written during the Cuban Missile Crisis (threat of nuclear war)
  • First recorded on November 22, 1963 – the day  United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
  • American Express introduced credit cards in the United Kingdom
  • Pope John XXIII died
  • Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech, “I Have a Dream”
  • The Beatles released their first album

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your opportunity to win a paperback copy of the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series II.SFWP Series 2 Cover


Musical Countdown to Christmas: I Wonder and I Wander by John Jacob Niles

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Welcome to Day 10 of my musical countdown to Christmas. Remember to enter a comment for your chance to receive my gift of the day.

Who was John Jacob Niles?

  • Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1892
  • Learned music theory from his mother and began writing music as a teenager
  • Served in the first world war
  • Studied music in France after the war
  • Sang opera and then toured the United States with Marion Kirby
  • A historian, song-writer, and recording artist
  • Traveled across the Appalachian Mountains to find folk music
  • Felt it was his duty to collect, preserve, and revive American musical folklore
  • Created dulcimers
  • Farmer
  • Wrote several books on music
  • Called the “Dean of American Balladeers”
  • A Contemporary of Joan Baez, Burl Ives, and Peter, Paul and Mary
  • There is a John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky which displays a number of instruments he crafted

The Story behind I Wonder as I Wander

  • On July 16, 1933 John Jacob Niles heard a little girl (Annie Morgan) singing a song he’d never heard before. She was dirty and wearing tattered clothes, but sang the song beautifully. The tune caught his attention because of the haunting melody.
  • She told him it had been passed on to her by her mother who heard it from her mother, etc.
  • Annie Morgan repeated the song seven times for Niles in exchange for a quarter
  • John Jacob Niles took the fragment of song he collected and used it to compose I Wonder as I Wander, consisting of a melody of four lines with three different stanzas
  • He completed the song on October 4, 1933 and first performed it on December 19, 1933
  • Listen to the recording below of I Wonder as I Wander as recorded by John Jacob Niles

Historical Context – What happened in 1933?

  • It was the worst year of the Great Depression
  • One in four people was unemployed
  • Adolf Hitler opened the first concentration camp at Dachau
  • A loaf of bread cost 7 cents; The average labourer earned $20/week
  • The Prohibition was repealed
  • Strong winds formed dust bowls in the Midwest
  • The vaccine for diphtheria was introduced in the United States

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Enter a comment below for an opportunity to receive the 1,000 piece puzzle.


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Hallelujah Chorus by George Frideric Handel

Musical Christmas9

Welcome to Day 9 in my musical countdown to Christmas. Only three more days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!

Who was George Frideric Handel?

  • Born February 23, 1685 in Halle, Germany, the son of a barber/surgeon
  • Wanted to take music lessons; Was opposed by his father, but encouraged by his mother
  • Played the organ for Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow at age 7 and was accepted as his pupil
  • Composed for organ, oboe, and violin by age 10
  • His father died when George was 11 years old
  • At age 18 accepted a position as violinist with Hamburg Opera’s Goosemarket Theater and also taught private music lessons
  • Attended Halle University
  • Produced his first opera, Almira, in 1704
  • Wrote and produced operas in Germany, Italy, and England
  • Moved to England in 1726 and became an English citizen
  • Started the New Royal Academy of Music and produced successful operas for the next 10 years
  • Began writing oratorios after the opera was no longer popular

The Story behind the Hallelujah Chorus

  • Handel wrote the Messiah (oratorio) in 1741 under the commission of Dublin’s Lord Lieutenant, based on a biblical libretto assembled by art patron Charles Jennens
  • The complete Messiah was written in a mere 23 days!
  • In April 1742, Messiah debuted at New Music Hall in Dublin
  • The Hallelujah Chorus occurs at the end of the 2nd part of the Messiah, which focuses on the Passion
  • The chorus presents both a single melody and then two or more melodies (polyphonic) at the same time
  • The chorus ends with the presentation of “And He shall reign” arranged in the style of a fugue, a popular form of music in the Baroque period
  • After Handel’s death, the Messiah was adapted for performance by a larger orchestra and choir

And just for fun – a flash mob version 🙂

Historical Context

  • A British fleet reached Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)
  • Captain Bering discovered Mount St. Elias in Alaska
  • Anders Celsius, an astronomer, introduced the Centigrade temperature scale

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for an opportunity to win a paperback copy of The San Francisco Wedding Planner Complete Series I, which I wrote with four other authors: Jen Cudmore, Mishael Austin Witty, Sheila Seiler Lagrand, and Patti J. Smith.

Cover for San Francisco Wedding Planner Series 1 Complete

Musical Countdown to Christmas – The Birthday of a King by William H. Neidlinger

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Welcome to Day 6 of my Musical Countdown to Christmas. I hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am. Today we take a look at The Birthday of a King by William H. Neidlinger.

Who was William H. Neidlinger?

  • Born in 1863
  • Studied in Brooklyn, London, and Paris
  • A Composer of two operas, a mass, a cantata, and many songs
  • Put his own poems and the work of others (Whitman, Tennyson, Longfellow, etc.) to music
  • An organist and conductor in New York City
  • Founded a school for children who were underachievers in New Jersey
  • Developed music pedagogy and music therapy, which he tried at his school

The Story behind The Birthday of a King

  • Written in 1890
  • Originally published in 1912
  • The words and music were written by William H. Neidlinger

Historical Context

  • The first playable recording (1877)
  • Carnegie Hall opened in New York
  • Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes
  • Emily Dickensen (poet)
  • Recording of the Hallelujah Chorus by the Battery Band in New York
  • A decline in the New York Stock Exchange started an economic depression in 1893

Looking for more details?

My gift for today

Enter a comment below for your chance to win Every Child Can Succeed: Making the Most of Your Child’s Learning Style by Cynthia Tobias.

Every Child can Succeed

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Joy to the World by Isaac Watts

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Welcome to my musical countdown to Christmas, Day 5. You may also want to read about the carols and composers from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. Don’t forget to leave a comment for an opportunity to win my gift of the day.

Who was Isaac Watts?

  • Born on July 17, 1674 in Southampton, England
  • He complained to his father that the songs of the church were hard to sing; his father told him to write something better
  • Learned Greek, Hebrew, and Latin
  • 1696 became a tutor
  • 1702 became a pastor
  • Struggled with poor health
  • Wrote books on geography, astronomy, grammar, and philosophy, but he’s most famous for the more than 700 hymns/poems which he wrote both for adults and children. Most of his poetry and hymns were based on Scripture passages.
  • Considered the “Father of English hymnody”
  • Awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Edinburg

The story behind Joy to the World

  • Written in 1719 under a tree on the Abney Estate near London, England
  • Based on Psalm 98
  • Original theme of the song was the second coming of Jesus
  • Watt’s poem was set to music over 100 years later by Lowell Mason

Historical context (1719)

  • Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe
  • First recorded sighting of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) in New England

Looking for more details?

My gift for today

Leave a comment below to be entered in a draw for the devotional book, Rise. This book has 32 weeks of devotionals for students in their first year of college, written by ninety-two different authors.

Rise by Ruth L Snyder

Musical Countdown to Christmas: Silent Night by Joseph Mohr

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Welcome to my musical countdown to Christmas for 2014! In these posts I will share some “behind the scenes” information about the Christmas Carol and composer for the day, as well as a link to a performance of the song. Enjoy!

Who was Joseph Mohr?

  • Born in Salzburg on December 11, 1792
  • His soldier father deserted the family when he discovered Joseph’s mother was pregnant
  • Considered a social outcast because he was born out of wedlock
  • His mother raised him, earning money by spinning and knitting
  • Johann Hiernle, a church choir master, recognized Joseph’s musical ability and made sure he received a proper education
  • Played guitar, violin, and organ
  • Ordained as a priest in 1812

The story behind Silent Night

  • Written in 1816 while Joseph Mohr was serving as an assistant priest in Mariapfarr in Lungau
  • In 1818, Joseph Mohr approached his organist friend, Franz Xaver Gruber, asking him to compose a melody which fit the text and could be performed by a choir accompanied by guitar
  • On December 24, 1818 Franz Gruber brought his composition to Joseph Mohr
  • The carol was first performed at Christmas Mass on December 24, 1818 with Joseph Mohr singing tenor while playing guitar and Gruber singing bass to an audience consisting of mostly shipping labourers and boat builders
  • An original autographed copy of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) was discovered in 1995!

Historical Context of the Song

  • Written just after the Napoleonic wars of 1792-1815
  • Salzburg had just lost its status as an independent country
  • Oberndorf was separated from Laufen (across the new official border of the Salzach River)
  • The local economy, which had been dependent on salt trade, was depressed by the war
  • Many of the boat builders and labourers faced uncertainty and possible unemployment

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a free copy of the new DVD from Focus on the Family  – Irreplaceable: What is Family?

Irreplaceable Movie