If Only In My Dreams…

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that most people want to be home or with loved ones for the December holidays. Historically (and in the modern era), that isn’t always possible.

One Christmas song recorded in 1943 addressed that reality with touching nostalgia. It’s a sympathetic song without getting depressing or too melancholy. It comes from the World War II era (joining another hit song – “White Christmas”) in a treasury of historical songs from the mid-20th Century that are still played and enjoyed.

Today – as the second song in the 2016 series You’re Singing History – we present “I’ll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams).” Continue reading

Angels We Have Heard On High

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Today, we’ll start our December 2016 Historical Theme of the Month “You’re Singing History” with a new look at a wonderfully glorious song and its interesting origins. In case you’re a new reader, we did run “You’re Singing History” last year with other Christmas carols. It was so much fun we decided to do it again this year with a new set of holiday songs! (Check the archive for December 2015’s featured songs…)

There are many wonderful Christmas carols, but one of my all-time favorites is “Angels We Have Heard On High.” We’ll kick-off the holiday season with this energetic tune. What’s the history behind the song? Where did it come from? Read on to find out! Continue reading

“Deck The Halls” – Translated

A few weeks ago I was looking through a Christmas music book with a young child. This child – we’ll call her Mary (that’s not her real name so don’t worry) – turned the page and found the old Christmas Carol Deck The Halls. Anxious to show me her reading skills, Mary started reading the lyrics to the song. She didn’t get very far before she stopped and asked, “Miss Sarah, what’s a bough? And what’s Yuletide? And merry measure?” So Mary and I had a vocabulary and history lesson that afternoon. We “translated” the lyrics and once she understood the words, Mary liked the song and learned to play it on the piano!

Christmas hollyToday I thought it would be fun to look at a little history of this traditional carol and “translate” some of the slightly archaic words.

A Really Old Song

Deck the Halls is one of those carols that no one seems to know exactly when it was written, but we know it’s old – some folks believe it was around in the 1500’s. (That’s during Queen Elizabeth I’s era and before the Pilgrims came to America). There is some evidence suggesting the lyrics originated in Wales (U.K.) and over the years were translated from Welsh to English.

The music too has it’s mysteries. It likely originated as a dance tune, but the composer W.A. Mozart used the music in one of his duets for violin and piano.

The song gained publication fame during the 1860’s in England and became popular in America in the next decade. It’s been a classic every since!

The Traditional English Lyrics With “Translation”

(Lyrics are in Red, Bold, Italics  – my interpreting is in green.)

Deck the hall with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Hall = home; central area of a castle   Bough – branch

Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Jolly = happy

Don we now our gay apparel, Fa la la la la la la la la.

“Time to put on happy Christmas clothes”

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Troll = repetitive singing   Yuletide = an old term for the Christmas season

See the blazing yule before us, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Yule = a big log which was supposed to burn for the 12 days of Christmas

Strike the harp and join the chorus, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Strike the harp = don’t hit it! Rather play a big chord…and then start singing.

16th Century Dancing; image in public domain in the U.S. because of dateFollow me in merry measure, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Merry measure = dancing

While I tell of Yuletide treasure, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Yuletide = see my note above.

Fast away the old year passes, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses! Fa la la la la la la la la.

“Welcome the new year!” Lads = boys   Lasses = girls

Sing we joyous all together, Fa la la la la la la la la.

Headless of the wind and weather, Fa la la la la la la la la.

“Never mind the cold outside – there’s a big, happy party inside.”

Enjoy The Music

I hope your “hall” is ready for the “Yuletide season” and that you will have a “jolly” week before Christmas!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

“I’m Dreaming Of…”

snowy woodsLiving in the sunny region of Southern California, it’s not likely I’ll get a White Christmas but I can still enjoy the idea, the songs, and the photos. (Maybe I enjoy it more because I don’t have snow to shovel?)

Anyway, this last week winter wonderlands of snow have been on my mind. I’ve debated if “one can hear falling snow” like it says in the carol Still, Still, Still. (I’ve been assured by knowledgeable folks that I couldn’t, but I have this elaborate theory I’m going to test someday…) I’ve made a wreath of paper snowflakes and sang Let It Snow.

So now that I’ve confessed some of my current daydreams, our song of the day shouldn’t be too surprising: White Christmas.

Berlin and Crosby’s Hit Song

It was a warm and sunny afternoon in Southern California (imagine that!) in the year 1940. Irving Berlin – a famous American songwriter – penned the words to White Christmas in his hotel room and announced to his companions that he’d just written one of the best songs ever. He was right.

Bing Crosby performs for U.S. troops during WWII. "White Christmas" was one of his most popular songs.

Bing Crosby performs for U.S. troops during WWII. “White Christmas” was one of his most popular songs.

The song was first performed for the American public in December 1941 on Bing Crosby’s radio program. White Christmas debuted just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor which launched American into World War II, and for the next years the song was a top hit among U.S. troops around the globe.

At home in the states, White Christmas was a radio success, was used in the film “Holiday Inn”, and Crosby made several recordings. The song topped lists of popular music of the era.

Bing Crosby’s versions of White Christmas has become the single most successful song in the international music industry. Over 150 million copies of the song have been purchased through the years (that figure includes Crosby’s recordings and productions by other artists.)

A Simple Song

What made White Christmas so popular? Oh, there are many theories. Personally, I think the simplicity of the song and tune have resonated with each generation. It’s a wish for something beautiful and simple. It’s not a plea for world peace, a purple hippopotamus, or a new iPhone.

It’s a wish for a scene of breathtaking beauty (new snow) and the warmth and coziness of celebrating with family and friends. It’s something every generation has wanted and something which sadly remains elusive for those who don’t take the time to see the beauty around them and cherish those they love.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.

Enjoy The Music

Whether you’ll have real snow or sunny days, may your Christmas season be merry and bright! And, remember, it’s okay to wish and dream…

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah