An Advent Playlist, for Rae Anne, Jane, and Steve
This is Advent.
I can feel my soul taking a deep breath.
I long for Advent all year – the quiet waiting for Christ, the Scripture, the candlelight, and the music. The music of Advent is rich with joy and doctrine, and I love it with my whole heart. Yes, I love "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and "We Three Kings." I even love the secular songs like "Deck the Halls." I love Amy Grant, and Mannheim Steamroller. I love the Carpenters and Pentatonix…
But I love the Oxford Book of Carols most of all. My music teaching mother has graciously let me “borrow” her copy for a long while, and from my earliest memories, taught me to love music, to love
singing, and to use that love in service to God through my church family.
She encouraged me to join the Terre Haute Children’s Choir in the early 90’s. It was directed at that time, by the incomparable Jane Conner, a formidable and competent musician whose influence in my musical taste is keenly felt even as I boldly march into middle age.
She introduced me to my favorite carols, brining juvenile voices into lovely harmony and cementing some ancient tunes into my memory. "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" for "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," when "The Holly and the Ivy" will be in their full glory, surrounding the "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly."
How those songs have blessed my life.
Now, I find myself drawn to albums, like Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band’s "A Tapestry of Carols," and singing lustily through the house, in the car, and anywhere I can:
“Aye and therefore be merry,
Rejoice and be ye merry,
Set sorrows aside!
Christ Jesus our Savior was born on this tide!”
Then there was Steve McDaniel, who taught me to love "In the Bleak Midwinter," a melody I sang to my babies as I rocked them. He brought "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming" to the Madrigal Choir. Thanks to ,my mother and Mrs. Conner, I was ready to fall in love with these pieces too – and more.
This year, in their honor, I’m teaching a small contingency of my congregation to love some of these songs. We have a small but mighty Christmas Choir preparing "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly," which I will accompany on my guitar (just like Maddy Prior). It will be beautiful.
When the usual Christmas songs feel old, worn out, even empty and shallow, I challenge you to “Break Forth…” and explore the deep riches of old Advent hymns. They have many verses, teaching the Biblical history of Christ from prophecy to resurrection, and they are often hauntingly beautiful.
My Advent Playlist:
Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band: "Carols & Capers" and "A Tapestry of Carols" (both albums)
Alison Kraus & Yo Yo Ma: "Wexford Carol"
"Vaughn Williams: An Oxford Christmas" (album, but particularly the Sussex Carol (1st tune), Gloucestershire Wassail, The Salutation Carol, The Bellman’s Song (3rd tune), Song of the Crib, ok…pretty much all of them)
"Nowell Sing We: Contemporary Carols, Vol.2" (album)
Glad: "An Acapella Christmas," particularly their version of "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light"
Sara Groves: "O Holy Night" (album)
Fernando Ortega: "Christmas Songs" (album)