Daughters of the American Revolution: Old Bute Chapter discusses origins of Christmas carols

Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:27 PM


The Old Bute Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution met in December for a covered-dish luncheon at the home of Sara Davis, regent. Mary Anne C. Davis and Suzanne D. Duncan acted as co-hostesses.

Following a brief business session and exchange of gifts, Virginia F. Grissom, chaplain, reviewed the origin of many Christmas hymns categorized as traditional melodies, folk songs, contemporary and spirituals. She noted that there composers and lyricists are often listed as “unknown.” In many hymnals, the German Protestant Martin Luther is named as both composer and lyricist of the 16th century “Away in a Manger,” but others say, “source unknown” or mention a variety of names.

The music and words of many carols were written by famous musicians and theologians. The list includes “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” music by Felix Mendelssohn and words by John Wesley; and “Joy to the World,” music by George Frederick Handel and words by Isaac Watts. In the repertory of contemporary carols, “Mary, Did You Know?” was written by Mark Lowry, a comedian with the Bill Gaither Group, and Buddy Greene, modern hymnist.

According to Grissom, some Christmas carols concern the writers’ personal crises. For instance, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,’ deals with the ravages of the Civil War and torment over the death of his wife in a fire. She cited the phrase “there is no peace on earth, I said: for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth,” as an example.

However, upon reflection, his mood changes to the deep Christian belief for which he was widely know. The last verses declare, ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men.’ “

The chapter’s next meeting will not take place until March in the Grissom home. At that time, the program will concern the history of education in Vance County.