Thomas Nelson (September 15, 2015) 224 pages
From Oxford professor and renowned British composer, a joyous account of the history behind our favorite carols.
Everyone loves a carol-in the end, even Ebenezer Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of mid-winter mood, like the aroma of gingerbread or the twinkle of lights on a tree. It's a kind of magic.
But how did they get that magic? Andrew Gant-choirmaster, church musician, university professor, and writer-tells the story of twenty of our favorite carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating, and often surprising, tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys and choirboys. Readers get to delve into the history such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas," "Away in a Manger," and "O, Tannenbaum," discovering along the way how "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" came to replace "Hark, how all the welkin' ring" and how Ralph Vaughan Williams applied the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a nineteenth century American pilgrim to make "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
A charming book that brims with anecdote, expert knowledge, and Christmas spirit, this is a fittingly joyous account of one of the best-loved musical traditions.
I couldn't resist giving this book a try. I like having little random facts in my head. Sure, it probably makes me a pain at times, but it's fun. ;) I thought it would be interesting to learn the stories behind some of the holiday songs.
It turns out that this book is more on the textbook kind of education side, as opposed to the just good fun kind. It's still interesting, but I'd recommend taking it day by day throughout the holiday season, instead of reading straight through. It can easily get boring if not taken slow, just to warn you. It could even be a great "school" kind of assignment for older students.
The chapters are broken down in sections. Some of them are more subject specific, like advent, angels, shepherds, the journey to Bethlehem, etc. Some of them have actual dates attached to them. Christmas is obviously set for Dec. 25th, but there's also St. Stephens day for Dec. 26th, Holy Innocents for Dec. 26th, Twelfth Night for Jan. 5th, etc.
If you don't mind reading it slowly, or you're in the mood for education revolving around Christmas songs, give this one a try!
*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.
The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs