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Christmas by themes: American Carols

Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 09:38:08 -0500
From: "Marlon G. Hurst"
Subject: COMPILATION: American Carols (Long)

Thanks to the many who provided such wonderful information regarding American
Carols. The compilation follows:
Just a suggestion: The Boston Camerata under Joel Cohen released a disc
about three years ago called "An American Christmas". The CD is from
Erato and it is superb. Also, their "The American Vocalist" on the same
label has several Christmas selections. I believe they even publish
some of these arrangements - visit their website. Very
well put together, scholarly programs.

Sean Ivory
I have used several "Sacred Harp" tunes as quasi carols for a "Nine Lessons
and Carols" service. The one I love the most is "Oxford" which begins with
the words, "Shepherds rejoice, lift up your eyes and send your fears away,
News from the regions of the skies, a Savior is born today." Also, "The Babe
Of Bethlehem" has been arranged by several various composers and is quite

Bryan Black
Embry Hills UMC
Atlanta, GA
Here's one:
Fulfilment - from "The Christian Harmony"
could use it in one of those early Old Testament prophecy
readings. Text is
See how the Scriptures are fulfilling,
Poor sinners are returning home;
The time that prophets were foretelling,
With signs and wonders now is come.
The gospel trumpets now are blowing
From sea to sea, from land to land;
God's Holy spirit down is pouring,
And Christians joining heart and hand.

Four to six parts - a cappella, homophonic

Ben Dover
Choral Music Department
Every year at my church in Worcester, I do a "Lenten" Lessons and Carols that
features 19th century American Folk Hymns and Spirituals and Shaker Tunes.

A BIG SUCCESS. People love it - and it is very evocative. So I think you
would do well with a Christmas version.

I sing with the Boston Camerata (dir. Joel Cohen) where I have picked up most
of my repertoire. My list is extensive (over 200 titles) - if you are
interested, you should first try and listen to some of the Camerata CDs
(library, etc.) - there are six of them that feature American Music - one
devoted to Xmas.

Good luck.
John Delorey
Ethos Ensemble
I've compiled and edited a collection of tunes from American tunebooks,
mostly all four-part. Either the Christmas text with which I found the
tune, or -- in the case of the many duplicates of "While Shepherds Watched"
and other popular texts -- gave the tune a different Christmas text.

I'd be happy to send you a list of the tunes and a First-Line list of the
texts if you're interested? The book, An American Christmas Harp, is
presently out-of-stock but a fresh printing is anticipated in late
January/early February.

--Karen E. Willard
You may want to check into a coupe fine recordings: Boston Camarata - An
American Christmas; and Waverly Consort - A Waverly Consort Christmas. Some
neat pieces and ideas on both.

Doug Bachorik, Jr.
Fergus Falls Community College
There is a collection of what I believe to be advent carols of early
american origin titled, "Two advent carols and a Lullaby." The carols
are arranged by George Guest for SATB choir, treble and tenor soloists and
is published by Paraclete Press. The two carols (the titles of which
escape me at this moment) are appropriate for the first two of nine
readings established in the Anglican (Episcopal) lectionary. Settings are
austere and somber, modal harmonies effectively set.
Please send me your results, I'm intrigued:)


Ed Goeke
Dir. of Music
Christ Episcopal Church
Overland Park,KS
I was reading about your recent inquiry about next year's
Christmas program planning and I thought you may be interested in a work
recently written by a composer, Randall Davidson, at some point although it
wouldn't be appropriate for the baroque music. The work "The Fourth Wise
Man" was premiered by Philip Brunelle's Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota
who commissioned the work with assistance from Meet the Composer's New
Residency Program. It is adapted by George Sand from Michel Tournier's
novel, "The Fourth Wiseman," and from turn-of-the-century American Henry
Van Dyke's "The Story of the Other Wiseman."

The work is a 65 minute long church parable and requires 5 soloists (4
male, 1 female), treble Angel trio (young voices), small SATB chorus, large
SATB chorus, and ensemble: oboe, trumpet, harp, percussion, organ, and
strings (3 2 1 1 1). Like the last supper, there are 13 people around the
instrumentalists' table. The work was most recently performed in at Stephen
F. Austin State University in Nagodoches, TX in celebration of their new
concert hall.
A resource for your proposed "All-American" lessons and carols might be th
Concordia Book of American Carols, Edited by Carl Schalk and published by
Concordia Publishing House, #97-6579.

Steve Burton *********************************
Director of Music Ministries * A poet must write, an artist *
Sandy Springs Christian Church * must paint, and musicians *
301 Johnson Ferry Rd.,NW * must make music if they are *
Atlanta, GA 30328 * to be at peace within them- *
phone: 404 256-2582 * selves. What we can be, we *
fax: 404 252-6839 * must be. *
home: 770 974-1418 * Howard Swan *
I see you are near Atlanta. I would strongly suggest you check out the
Sacred Harp singing in your area for the living tradition of singing
compositions by Billings and Walker, among others. For a schedule see
It's the 1997 schedule but the singing in Carrollton on the first Sunday
should always be on the 1st Sunday in whatever year.

If what you want is the early American (Billings) and Southern shape note
(Walker) type material the only book you need is this one:
An American Christmas Harp, compiled by Karen Willard.

I also urge you to check out the Sacred Harp resource pages at:

There is at least one Christmas recording available.
If you saw the recent posting of my L&C service this year, I have
programmed a couple of American tunes:

"Broad is the Road That Leads to Death" - not a carol, but an
early-American (1785) shape-note tune by Daniel Read found in the Sacred
Harp among other early tunebooks. Goes nicely with Adam & Eve lesson.

"Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head" - an Appalachian carol (arranged by Arthur
Warrel). Goes with Birth of Christ lesson.

I like the idea of an American Lessons & Carols and almost made this year's
service such a program, but decided the congregation wouldn't appreciate
not having any "traditional" carols. However, I have similar plans for an
American Easter service using, among other U.S. tunes, Billings "Easter
Anthem," James Christopher's "What Wondrous Love Is This?" and the
spiritual "Were You There?"

Good Luck,

Ryan D. Neaveill, Chancel Choir Director
First United Methodist Church
Urbana, Illinois
e-mail: ryan(a)
Marlon, I think an American lessons and carols would be great. I am using one in
my service Christmas eve which comes from the 19th century, a beautiful tune
called Brightest and Best, or alternatively as Star in the East. I have arranged
it, attempting to keep the flavor of "Sacred Harp" style and would be happy to
share it with you.
Wayland Rogers
I strongly recommend "An Early American Christmas Tryptych" arranged by
Leonard Van Camp

Paul Olsen, Salem Oregon

Marlon G. Hurst
Director of Music
Conyers Presbyterian Church
Phone (770) 929-0700; Fax (770) 929-1940

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
--Henry David Thoreau