Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Carols of Christmas

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The Carols of Christmas
Andrew Gant
Thomas Nelson

From Oxford professor and renowned British composer, a joyous account of the history behind our favorite carols.

Everyone loves a carol--in the end, even Ebenezer Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of mid-winter mood, like the aroma of gingerbread or the twinkle of lights on a tree. It's a kind of magic.

But how did they get that magic? Andrew Gant--choirmaster, church musician, university professor, and writer--tells the story of some twenty carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating, and often surprising, tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys and choirboys. Readers get to delve into the history such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas," "Away in a Manger," and "O, Tannenbaum," discovering along the way how "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" came to replace "Hark, how all the welkin' ring" and how Ralph Vaughan Williams applied the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a nineteenth century American pilgrim to make "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

A charming book that brims with anecdote, expert knowledge, and Christmas spirit, this is a fittingly joyous account of one of the best-loved musical traditions.

     It seems a bit premature to be reading Christmas books in September, but when I saw this book available I couldn't help but pick it up. While I'll be the first to say I'm musically challenged, I love listening to music anyway. And one technical aspect I can understand and appreciate is the history behind the songs.

     With this in mind, I settled down with this book, assuming it would be a quick, fun read.

     Well...not exactly. At least, it wasn't a quick read. The book, packed with information, was a bit more...scholarly than I had anticipated. Not a bad thing, but it did take more time to chew on, and I found myself reading a chapter or two a day during my free time.

     I was unfamiliar with a lot of the stories behind the carols; so I felt like I learned a lot. My favorite chapters were probably those later in the book, on carols such as "Away in a Manger," "Good King Wensceslas," "I Wonder as I Wander," and "We Three Kings."

     Overall, a book full of well-researched information and a good resource for anyone who wonders about the familiar carols we sing every year.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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