Friday, December 10, 2010

What Sweeter Music Can We Bring

For journal writing this week, I've had my students writing about and around Christmas. One day I asked them to write about their favorite Christmas carol. Today, I played some Christmas music (Chris Botti's Christmas album) and asked them to write where the music took them. At school, I don't play music with words because I want the students to use their own words and not be influenced by those of others. But at home, and in the car, it's a different story. Nothing says Christmas to me like Christmas music. And nothing says Christmas music to me like John Rutter's Christmas carols (unless it's the Carpenters Christmas albums...).

One of my favorite John Rutter carols is actually a setting of a poem by 17th century English pastor and poet Robert Herrick. His "What Sweeter Music" describes exactly the power and purpose of music to express our love and gratitude for the gift of the Christ child. (I wrote about this carol a couple of years ago, too, and you can go here to read more about the poem and hear a nice setting of it.)

A Christmas Carol, Sung to the King in the Presence at White-Hall

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a Carol, for to sing
The Birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the Voice! Awake the String!
Heart, Ear, and Eye, and every thing
Awake! the while the active Finger
Runs division with the Singer.

From the Flourish they came to the Song.

Voice 1:
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this Day,
That sees December turn'd to May.

Voice 2:
If we may ask the reason, say:
The why, and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Spring-time fo the year?

Voice 3:
Why does the chilling Winter's morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell, like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden?

Voice 4:
Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born, whose quick'ning Birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.

We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who, with His Sun-shine, and His Showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

Voice 1:
The Darling of the World is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome Him.

Voice 2:
The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the Heart,

Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This Holly and this Ivy Wreath,
To do Him honor; who's our King,
And Lord of all this Revelling.

Robert Herrick (1596-1674)


Morning's Minion said...

I've been wondering how this first Christmas season away from "home" has been for you. I know you and your family have long been involved in the So Lancaster music scene.
Holidays can be such a nostalgic time and for me, the fondest remebrances have to do with music of the season.

Rondi said...

Music usually helps me hold it together through good times and bad. It's hard to be away from family but I am going home for two weeks. I can't wait! We'll be going to hear the Holiday Pops. First time I've done that in some 25 years!