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Music for Christmas

Xmas Owl

What music would you expect to hear at Christmas time? You might have a favourite Christmas Carol or song that you love to sing along to. Perhaps you have sung together with your friends at school or in a choir. The Christmas holiday is a good opportunity to enjoy listening to, and performing Christmas music. Below are some suggestions to help you get started.

While Shepherds Watched

In the History chapter of 'What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know' we read that parliament agreed which prayers the Church of England would use. These prayers were printed in a book called The Book of Common Prayer. After the prayer books had been printed, some books of songs, or hymns were also printed. The most popular hymn book had only one Christmas carol: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.”

While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

"Fear not," said he (for mighty dread
Had seiz'd their troubled mind;)
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
"To you, and all mankind.

"To you in David's town this day
"Is born of David's line,
"A Saviour which is Christ the Lord;
"And this shall be the sign:

"The heav'nly babe, you there shall find
"To human view display'd,
"All meanly wrapt in swaddling bands,
"And in a manger laid."

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appear'd a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, and thus
Address'd their joyful song:

"All glory be to God on high,
"And to the earth be peace;
"Good-will, henceforth from heav'n to men
"Begin and never cease.

Bach and Handel

Great composers have written special pieces about Christmas. In Britain, one of the best known is Messiah by Handel. That tells the whole story of Jesus’ life, so only the early parts are really about Christmas. If you can find a recording, listen to “Comfort Ye My People” and “Every Valley Shall be Exalted”. These are prophecies, telling people to expect that Jesus will come into the world. They are sung by a tenor, a man capable of singing high notes.

The tracks can be purchased here:Comfort Ye My People, Every Valley Shall be Exalted.

J.S. Bach was born in the same year as Handel, 1685. He wrote musical pieces for particular days in the church year. Six of them, for days over Christmas, are often sung in one evening, telling the whole story but with a lot of extra songs to suggest how we should be feeling. The whole set is called the Christmas Oratorio. Oratorio is music on a religious subject, usually with singing and orchestra. Try to find a recording of Ehre Sei Dir Gott Gesungen [AIR-er zie deer GOTT ge-ZOONG-un] and have a listen.What does this music make you think of?

The Oratorio can be purchased here: Christmas Oratorio.