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

Musical Christmas11

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

Musical Christmas10

 

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.

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: We Three Kings by John H. Hopkins Jr.

Musical Christmas8

Welcome to Day 8 in my musical countdown to Christmas. Today we take a look at We Three Kings by John H. Hopkins, Jr.

Who was John H. Hopkins Jr.?

  • Born October 28, 1820 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • His father was Bishop of Vermont
  • Graduated from the University of Vermont
  • Worked as a reporter, intending to go on to law school
  • Attended General Theological Seminary instead
  • Taught music at General Theological Seminary
  • Was a writer and poet, book illustrator, and stained glass window designer
  • Also worked as editor, deacon, priest, and rector

The Story behind We Three Kings

  • Originally titled The Quest of the Magi
  • Written in 1857 for a Christmas pageant at General Theological Seminary
  • Based on the biblical story of the Magi and their journey to worship the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:1,2)

Historical Context

  • Stephen Douglas founded a Baptist Seminary in Chicago
  • The United States Supreme Court ruled that Africans could not become citizens
  • Mark Twain began a two year apprenticeship to become a riverboat pilot
  • Joseph Gayetty invented commercial toilet paper
  • James Buchanan became the 15th President of the United States of America
  • The Ohio Life Insurance and Trust (New York Branch) failed, causing widespread financial panic
  • Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your opportunity to win a CD with two Focus on the Family radio interviews with Mr. Tim Sisarich.

Tim Sisarich


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

Musical Christmas5

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: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Musical Christmas4

Who was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

  • Born in Maine in 1807
  • The second child of eight
  • Enjoyed writing and planned many writing projects with his friend William Browne
  • Published his first poem at age 13
  • Attended Bowdoin College along with Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Learned seven different languages and taught French, Spanish, and Italian at Bowdoin
  • First book (travelogue) was Outre Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea (1835)
  • Married Mary Potter, who died of a complicated miscarriage
  • Suffered from depression
  • Fell in love with Fanny Appleton (but Fanny didn’t reciprocate for seven long years)
  • Started teaching at Harvard University in 1836
  • Became popular worldwide as a poet and writer
  • Resigned from Harvard in 1857, a self-sustaining author
  • In 1861 Henry sustained burns trying to rescue Fanny from a house fire; Fanny died on their 18th wedding anniversary
  • In 1863 Henry’s son, Charles, ran off and joined the civil war against his father’s wishes
  • Has been described as a traveller, a linguist, and a romantic

The Story behind I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

  • Henry’s son, Charles, was a soldier in the Union Army
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words in December 1863 as he sat at the bedside of his son Charles, who was injured in the war
  • Original Title: Christmas Bells
  • You can find the full text of the poem on Hymns and Carols of Christmas
  • Watch the video below to hear more of the story and a stirring rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Historical Context of the Song

  • Written in the middle of the American Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Over 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in this war due to either battle or disease
  • Harriet Tubman freed slaves
  • “Missa Solemnis,” by Franz Schubert was performed in Leipzig
  • “Les Pêcheurs de Perles,” by George Bizet premiered in France

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today

Enter your comment below for a chance to win a copy of a dramatized version of Oliver Twist (written in 1838 by Charles Dickens).

Oliver Twist


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Away in a Manger by John T. McFarland

Musical Christmas3

Welcome to day 3 in my musical countdown to Christmas. You may also be interested in reading the posts for Day 1 and Day 2. Don’t forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win!

Who was John T. McFarland?

  • Born January 2, 1851
  • Methodist Minister who served in Iowa, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Kansas
  • Edited Sunday School Programs for the Methodist Episcopal Church

The Story behind Away in a Manger

  • First published in 1885 in a Lutheran Sunday School book compiled by James R. Murray
  • Most people say the author of the first two stanzas is unknown.
  • Another collection published in 1887 by James R. Murray (Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses) claimed the song was written by Martin Luther. “Luther’s Cradle Hymn, Composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.”
  • The carol became known in Germany AFTER it was widely known in the United States, which discounts the theory that Martin Luther wrote the first two stanzas
  • Third stanza was written by John T. McFarland in 1908 for use in a children’s church day program

Historical Context of the Song

  • Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was published
  • First issue of Good Housekeeping was published
  • Louis Pasteur developed a successful vaccine against rabies
  • The first bottle of Coca-cola was sold in 1886
  • Nikola Tesla began experimenting with x-rays

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today

Enter a comment below for your chance to win “Welcome to Whit’s End” a CD with two Adventures in Odyssey stories and a bonus mini-drama.

Adventures in Odyssey


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Angels We Have Heard on High

Musical Christmas2

Thanks for following along with this musical countdown to Christmas. If you missed Day 1, you can find it here.

Who was James Chadwick?

  • Born at Drogheda, Ireland on April 24, 1813
  • Third son of of John Chadwick and Francis Dromgoole
  • Ordained as Priest on December 17, 1836
  • The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle

The Story of Angels We Have Heard on High

  • Originally a French carol known as the Angel’s Hymn (author unknown)
  • The lyrics depict the story of Christ’s birth as told in the Gospel of Luke
  • In A.D. 129, a Bishop of Rome proclaimed that everyone should sing this “Angel’s Hymn”
  • People believe this is the first ever Christmas hymn of the church
  • James Chadwick translated the Angel’s Hymn into English in 1862

Historical Context of the Song

  • The first petroleum shipment from the United States arrived in England
  • Julia Howe published the Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Civil War in the United States

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a PDF copy of my Christmas novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle.

Cecile Cover

Yesterday’s Winner:

Congratulations to Pat Earl! You will be receiving the Irreplaceable DVD.