Three ships, possibly Irish

Violinist Lindsey Stirling plays a rousing version of “I Saw Three Ships” Thanksgiving Week of 2017. She and her colleagues do a goodly bit of Irish step dancing during the performance. All the while she continues to play her violin. It’s quite a show.

The song itself has been around since the 17th century. The meaning of the ships in the title is somewhat obscure.

My Namesake’s Day

Sung by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, here is the story of

a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow.

Other Christmas stories

I have posted two of these nearly every year for the past ten:

“Yes Virginia”, the story of Francis P. Church’s New York Sun newspaper editorial responding to Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa Claus’s existence.

Jo Walton’s wonderfully imaginative story of Joseph, faced with a newly-pregnant girlfriend and a sudden requirement to travel to Bethlehem.

The third story, new this year, is John Scalzi’s interview with Marta Pittman, Santa Claus’s lawyer.

Sing, O Glorious Host

The King’s College Choir sings “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The song and melody are similar to the one originally composed in 1739 by Charles Wesley (yes, the same Wesley family. John was his brother), but there were modifications done over the past 200 years. For example, the melody is from a Mendelssohn cantata written in 1840 to celebrate Gutenberg’s invention of movable type. Charles Wesley was prolific: he published words to more than 6,000 hymns.

This choir is far older than the hymn; it was established in 1441 by King Henry VI when he founded King’s College in Cambridge. He wanted daily singing in his chapel. That’s still the choir’s principal job.

The Night Before Christmas

Rosemary Clooney and Gene Autry sing “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” After 150 years of assuming it was written by Clement Clarke Moore, there is now some question as to whether he did so. It first appeared in 1823 anonymously; Moore claimed it in 1837. I don’t really care whether he or Henry Livingstone wrote it. I just enjoy the imagery.

En Français, s’il vous plaît

I learned this song in French III at Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965-1966 from Mr. Adair McConnell, who played it on an autoharp.

Diane Taraz sings “Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella.” From Wikipedia:

“Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” (French: Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle) is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 17th century. The song is usually notated in 3/8 time.

The carol was first published in France, and was subsequently translated into English in the 18th century. The song was originally not meant to be sung at Christmas; it was considered dance music for French nobility.

It seems likely that the melody was written by Charpentier, derived from the air à boire Qu’ils sont doux, bouteille jolie from the now lost Le médecin malgré lui.

The song title refers to two female farmhands who have found the baby and his mother in a stable. Excited by this discovery, they run to a nearby village to tell the inhabitants, who rush to see the new arrivals. Visitors to the stable are urged to keep their voices quiet, so the newborn can enjoy his dreams.

To this day, on Christmas Eve in the Provence region, children dressed as shepherds and milkmaids carry torches and candles while singing the carol, on their way to Midnight Mass.

Taraz is a Boston musician who’s recorded a lot of traditional music. She recorded this on her 1999 album “Hope! Says the Holly.”

The OSHA Christmas

I found this on Facebook. It was apparently written by a man named Stuart Bell, but I can’t find out any more about him. We can guess he’s from the UK or Canada because of the spelling of such words as “practised” and “publicised,” but that’s about all I can detect. It’s a shame, because he deserves acclaim for this effort.

Stuart Bell, 2014.

Please be advised that all employees planning to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs.

The assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining his/her glory all around s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.

While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practised in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may initiate allergic reactions.

Finally, for those involved in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas – be safe out there…….

Softly, softly

Tom Caufield performs an instrumental version of “Silent Night” on guitar. From Wikipedia:

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.

The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass, after river flooding had damaged the church organ. It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics, or what prompted him to create a new carol.

Bing Crosby’s version has sold some 30 million copies, making it the third best-selling single record of all time behind Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana “Candle in the Wind/Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”

I’ve seen chestnuts roasting. Really.

When I lived in Japan I saw 50-gallon drums turned on their ends and repurposed as charcoal grills on several street corners. I could buy a handful of hot grilled chestnuts for a couple of hundred yen.

Mel Tormé sings his signature song, one he co-wrote with Bob Wells in the summer of 1946. Here’s “The Christmas Song,” aka “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Comic book and screenwriter Mark Evanier has a wonderful story of Tormé surprising diners and carolers in LA one Christmas season, to which I link nearly every year. Here it is.

Take a ride on the Reading one-horse sleigh

The Carpenters perform “Sleigh Ride.” The song was originally written for orchestra by Leroy Anderson, who conceived of it in 1946 and completed it in 1948. The lyrics were composed in 1950 by Mitchell Parrish. The original recording was by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in 1949. According to ASCAP, it consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most-performed songs of all songs that have been written by the organization’s members.