Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Even Children the Anthem Ring (Day Four)

Peace upon earth! the angels sang,
Good will unto all! the chorus rang,
Glory to God! the Christ has come,
A bright star shines in the clear blue dome.

Joyously sing, praises we bring,
Joyously sing, praises we bring!
Loud hallelujahs to Christ we sing!

Peace upon earth! ’tis sounding still,
Glory unto God, to all good will!
Bethlehem’s song, ’tis caught from far,
And lifted up, to that glowing star.

Jesus has come! it echoes wide,
Thro’ valley and plain, on mountainside;
But not alone the angels sing,
For even children the anthem ring.

Yes! let them sing, for Christ has laid
His hand with a blessing on their head;
Sweeter to him than angels’ tones
Are songs that come from the little ones.

Julia A. Mathews, 1871
Tune: PEACE UPON EARTH ( with refrain)
Robert Lowry, 1871

One genre that has all but disappeared in our modern Yuletide celebrations is the Christmas gospel song, though I have excavated a few in our two previous Twelve Days of Christmas outings (such as the one at the Seven Year link below), and there's at least one more coming up this season. Gospel songs, also known as Sunday School songs, were the contemporary Christian music of their day (peaking between 1870 and 1920 or so) and very few of the thousands of pieces written and published are still sung today, let alone those on the theme of Christ's birth.

Robert Lowry, who wrote both words and music at various times, does have some familiar songs that we still sing today, such as: Shall we gather at the river and Marching to Zion but I'd imagine that it's been many years since anyone sang this Christmas song which was published in his collection Pure Gold for the Sunday School (1871). He did manage to contribute one surviving gospel song to the Easter repertory: Low in the grave you lay.

Seven Years Ago: Peaceful the wondrous night

One Year Ago: Calm on the listening ear of night

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