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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Part 2: How Many Famous Christmas Songs Came to Be

Since so many enjoyed yesterday's post, we figured we'd wrap up the shortened week with more short explanations as to how many famous Christmas and holiday favorites came to be..

We will be back on Monday, Dec 28th

~ Merry Christmas ~

'The First Noel' -- It is a traditional classical English Christmas carol of the early 19th century with its current form of Cornish origin (Cornwall is located in the southwest part of England)

The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase
'Jingle Bells' -- Written and published under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in the autumn of 1857.   Even though it is now associated with the Christmas and holiday season, it was actually originally written for American Thanksgiving

The song was often used as a drinking song at parties: people would jingle the ice in their glasses as they sung.

'O Little Town of Bethlehem' -- The text was written by Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), an Episcopal priest, rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia. He was inspired by visiting the village of Bethlehem in the Sanjak of Jerusalem in 1865.

Three years later, he wrote the poem for his church and his organist, Lewis Redner, added the music.
'Joy to the World' -- The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts' lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel, not least because the theme of the refrain (And heaven and nature sing...) appears in the orchestra opening and accompaniment of the recitative Comfort ye from Handel's 'Messiah'
'Sleigh Ride' -- Composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946 and finished the work in February 1948.

It was originally an instrumental piece; the lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter's day with another person, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950.

The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra

Although "Sleigh Ride" is often associated with Christmas, and appears on Christmas compilation albums, the song's lyrics mention no holiday or religion (apart from certain recordings, such as those by the Carpenters that substitute "Christmas party" for "birthday party" in the song's bridge)
'Happy Holiday' -- Happy Holiday" was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, where it is performed in a medley with the title song.

While it is commonly regarded as a Christmas song, in the film it is performed on New Year's Eve, and expresses a wish for the listener to enjoy "happy holidays" throughout the entire year.

For better or worse, the song helped to popularize the phrase "Happy Holidays" as a common greeting during the Christmas and holiday season in the United States
' My Favorite Things' -- A popular number from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical 'The Sound of Music.'

The song was first sung as a duet between Maria (played by Mary Martin) and Mother Abbess (Patricia Neway) in the original 1959 Broadway production and by Julie Andrews in The Garry Moore Show's 1961 Christmas special and the 1965 film.

The song was written to be sung by a young woman scared of facing new responsibilities outside the convent but the Winter-time imagery of the lyrics has made "My Favorite Things" a popular selection during the Christmas Holiday season,

The song mentions Silver White Winters, Whiskers on kittens, Snowflakes, Bright copper kettle, Warm-woolen mittens, Brown Paper Packages tied up with Strings, Sleigh Bells, Geese flying at night, etc
'Toyland' -- from the operetta 'Babes in Toyland', composed around 1903 by Victor Herbert with a libretto by Glen MacDonough which wove together various characters from Mother Goose nursery rhymes into a Christmas-themed musical extravaganza. 

'The Little Drummer Boy' --  Originally known as "Carol of the Drum", written by American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941 based on a traditional Czech carol.

It was recorded in 1955 by the Trapp Family Singers and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale
 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' -- recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby;  originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmastime

The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during WWII, writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family he will be coming home and to prepare the holiday for him, and requests snow, mistletoe, and presents on the tree. 

The song ends on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams".
When the song was originally pitched to people in the music business, they turned it down because the final line was too sad for all those separated from their loved ones in the military. 

Bing ultimately decided to record it and it became a top-ten hit..
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There are many many other Christmas & Holiday songs out there but hopefully you enjoyed the ones we presented..

Once again, Merry Christmas, enjoy the full album of songs played in Bossa Nova and we will be back on Monday Dec 28th..