Sunday, December 18, 2016
LDS Hymn #207
I have never had a problem with this Christmas hymn; I liked it well enough and remember a beautiful 4 part women's rendition in one of my Junior High Christmas performance seasons. But a few years ago, I believe in a movie about C.S. Lewis, I heard it set to a different tune. (At least, I believe it was this one. This and Hymn #208 can go to any of the same tunes, and be switched themselves, which really messes with the brain!) I was amazed at how differently the words stood out to me because of that tune. Later I heard it to yet another tune in Under the Greenwood Tree. I liked them all.
I like the original tune--don't get me wrong on that. But it doesn't seem to have as joyous and excited a feel that "glorious song of old" conveys. My first Christmas program as current ward choir director, I had them sing this hymn to a Mack Wilberg arrangement of Hymn 15. And I loved it! True, "the world in solemn stillness lay" wasn't as solemn anymore, but "Peace on the earth, good will to men" and "When the new heav'n and earth shall own The Prince of Peace their King" took on entirely new meanings. By the way, that Prince of Peace line is my favorite in this song. But again, the whole song helps paint the picture of the nativity, and remind us of the joy and gifts that we receive because of this gift of our Savior.
From the history book
Written by a Unitarian minister who wanted others to know that the angels' message was not just a one-time event but had longer-lasting, much more far-reaching effects. His concern is shown more in 2 verses we don't have. They definitely have a great message. I especially like "And man, at war with man, hears not The love song which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!" Poem was first written in 1849. In its earlier years it shared its melody with "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks." Never realized those went together either, but it does work! I love the versatility of hymns like that, yet also like the familiarity and unifying factor of tunes most everyone is familiar with.
In case you'd like to hear the Mack Wilberg arrangement (and don't want to hear it from Hymn 15 entry) so you can imagine it with these lyrics instead: