Sunday, December 18, 2016
LDS Hymn #206
(If that arrangement does not give you chills, I may have to think your musical ear and spirit are dead.)
I have so many, many favorites in things. Countless. It kind of discredits the word "favorite." Nevertheless, Away in a Manger may possibly be one of my favorite Christmas songs. I love how much of a lullaby it is. I love the setting of the nativity scene in verse 1 and 2. I love how, to me, it feels like those 2 verses are so appropriate if Mary or Joseph were to sing about this amazing, newborn baby. But what I absolutely love the most is the 3rd verse and our pleading to the Savior as a child--very fitting since we are the children of God.
I think what really makes this song hit hymn is the tune--at least the one used in the 1985 hymnal. The one they used to have us sing in schools slightly annoyed me. The Primary version--though the chorus be quite the fun--is similar to that tune and annoys me even more! I get that both tunes are probably better for children's voices. But the one in the hymnal is so much more soothing, tender, and lullaby-ish. Really good for adult voices, particularly ones that can't go as high as they once might have been. (No, I am not referring to myself, though have spent many years dreading when my voice will inevitably not be able to sing the way it can right now.) The irony in how much I love the tune in the hymnal is that I have the choir singing this song for Christmas--to an entirely different tune!
From the history book
No known history of the text. Some thought it was Martin Luther, but it first appeared in print in the United States, not Germany. Ahhh! I love this: "the hymn tune Cradle Song by William J. Kirkpatrick was chosen for our hymnal because of its dignity and simplicity." Agreed! It is simple and dignified. And how appropriate that its name tends to evoke thoughts of a lullaby. I sometimes forget that the shift from the nativity scene to a child's please happens halfway through Verse 2. And the book's author points out that it isn't too great a shift if one thinks about a child seeing how Jesus is disturbed from his sleeping yet does not cry, and that they plead he will stay with them so that they can sleep.