Monday, September 7, 2015

The Carols of Christmas a BookLook Blogger review}

I love Christmas.

I love music.

I love Christmas music even more.

I also really enjoy learning the stories behind some of my favorite songs.  So asking to review The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs by Andrew Gant was an easy decision.

Of course I wanted it. 

From the publisher:
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 twenty of our favorite 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.
My thoughts:

This has been fun to read.  The introduction was a bit technical, and long.  I think I'd get more out of it after reading at least a few of the stories about the carols, so I've thought about going back to re-read it.  The introduction does contain a lot of great information, though, about carols in general and Gant's discoveries, so I wouldn't skip it either.

The sections on the individual carols are a lot of fun.  Most are pretty short, and easy to read in a single sitting.   There was only one song in the book that I wasn't at least somewhat familiar with.  Other songs, in addition to those mentioned above, include:
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  • The Holly and the Ivy
  • I Saw Three Ships
  • Good Christian Men, Rejoice
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • While Shepherds Watched
  • O Holy Night
  • Ding dong! Merrily on High
  • Angels from the Realms of Glory
  • I Wonder As I Wander
  • Personent hodie
  • Here We Come a-Wassailing
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Three Kings
  • What Child Is This?
  • Jingle Bells
Gant does a fabulous job of outlining the history of the words and of the tune, as best he can figure it.  Each chapter ends with the score for the song, which is really a lot of fun with tunes such as "Angels from the Realms of Glory," where I had to sit down at a keyboard to figure out how it went... as the tune I've always sung to this song is nothing like what is in here (and the text had a pretty lengthy discussion of the tune!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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