Friday, December 19, 2008

Stories behind Holiday Songs

Book writers are frequently asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Do you ever wonder about the ideas behind some of our most famous holiday songs?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Montgomery Ward employee, Robert L. May, in 1939 as an assignment. The department store chain commissioned May to write a story to be printed and given away to Christmas shoppers that year. Rudolph’s story was turned into the Christmas song we know today when May’s songwriter brother-in-law adapted the story to song and added lyrics. For the full story, click here.

Silent Night was written in 1818 by Father Joseph Mohr, parish priest of the Church of St. Nicholas, and the church’s organist, Franz Gruber. The church organ was out of commission and the men wrote Silent Night for the congregation to sing along with a guitar at the Christmas Eve service. Various accounts point to different reasons for the organ’s temporary disability. The most prominent reason told (and my favorite as a young music student and now) is that a rat chewed through a part of the organ and disabled it. If this is true, a rodent was the inspiration for one of the most famous Christmas carols of all time.

Do Christmas carols fill your car, office, or home at this time of year? Do you have a favorite?


Shauna Roberts said...

It's so hard to choose a favorite because I love so many! Probably "Gautete!" is my favorite, with "Riu, riu, chiu," "Coventry Carol," and "Personet hodie" tying for second. I also love most of the early French carols, especially "Noel Nouvelet," "Entre le bouef," "Il est né, le divin Enfant," and the "Huron Carol" (supposedly Native American, but clearly heavily Frenchified).

Rae Ann Parker said...

SHAUNA, your carol knowledge is impressive! I bet you play some of these on the recorder, too.