Beloved Christmas carols: Good Christian men, rejoice




Both the original text and tune of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” appeared in early fourteenth-century Germany. European conditions then were not very pleasant. Temperatures were cooling as the earth entered the so-called “Little Ice Age.” The King of France had arrested the Pope and removed the papal court from Rome to Avignon. Bubonic plague, known as the “black death,” ravaged Europe. England and France became embroiled in the Hundred Years War. In its multiplied upheavals and catastrophes, the fourteenth-century resembles our own time. Then as now, many people dreaded what seemed likely in the future. Then as now, devout Christians … Continue reading

Beloved Christmas carols: O come, o come Emmanuel




“O come, o come Emmanuel” is among the oldest of hymns still known, both in terms of the words and the tune. Like many old Gregorian chants, it lay forgotten for centuries before its rediscovery. Thomas Helmore published the tune in 1856 in Part II of The Hymnal Noted. He said it was found in a French missal in the Portuguese National Library in Lisbon, but no one since has found it there. The French National Library in Paris has a fifteenth-century processional of Franciscan nuns with the identical tune, an added second voice, and words from the funeral antiphon … Continue reading