Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Origin of Christmas Carols.

Christmas carols were first introduced in Church by St Francis of Assisi, the Roman Catholic Priest, in Grecchio, Italy in 1223. Before that, carols were sung in homes and other private places as most churches originally considered the singing of carols to be a pagan custom. The carols he lead the congregation in were Bible based, though were not considered hymns.

Some of the first Christmas carols were not written. They were passed on by one person to another verbally. Only during the 14th century carols became a popular religious song form. The theme often revolved around a saint, the Christ child or the Virgin Mary, at times blending two languages such as English and Latin.

By the 15th century the carol was also considered as art music. During this time, elaborate arrangements were made and carols were considered an important contribution to English medieval music. The Fayrfax Manuscript, a court songbook featuring carols, was written by the end of the 15th century. The songs were written for 3 or 4 voices and themes were mostly on the Passion of Christ.

By the 16th century though, the popularity of carols faltered, almost disappearing entirely if not for the revival that happened by the middle of the 18th century. Most of the carols we know today were written during this period. Instead of singing in private places, church choirs began singing Christmas carols with biblical themes as well as the first street carolers began a new Christmas tradition.

A few of the old favorite authors and composers are as listed:

"Silent Night" was written as a poem by Pastor Joseph Mohr on Christmas Eve in 1818. Because the church organ was broken, the church organist, Felix Gruber, wrote music to the words and played a guitar as he, the pastor and church choir sang.

"Joy to the World" was written by Issac Watts as part of his version of Psalm 98. The composer of the music for this carol is not known.

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