Thursday, December 04, 2008

O Holy Night

O Holy Night was written in 1847 in France by a poet named Placide Cappeau, who was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas Mass. December 3, while on a trip to Paris, Cappeau pondered Luke 2 and pictured himself there on the night of the Savior's birth. Using that imagry as inspiration, he wrote "Cantique de Noel". Cappeau felt it should have music, so upon arriving in Paris he asked his friend Adolphe Adam to compose a tune.

The song quickly became a Christmas favorite, though it suffered through some persecution as it was banned by the Church because its author's subsequent vocal anti-slavery views, and it's composer was accused of being a Jew. But the song could not be kept down, and continued to be sung and loved by the masses.

It made it's way to America in 1855 when it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister and journalist who was drawn to the implied abolitionist tone of the song. It was Dwight that translated Cappeau's words to say,
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
O Holy Night quickly became a favorite in the US.

Of note is that on Christmas Eve 1906 a Canadian inventor in Massachusetts, Reginald Fessenden, played O Holy Night on a violin for the first ever AM radio broadcast. He also read from Luke 2 and played Handel's "Largo" on a phonograph.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I often prefer instrument-only versions to those that are sung. I enjoy listening to the power of the music, and silently supplying the words on my own.

The Amazing Story of O Holy Night


Lyndee W. said...

It was cool to read the history of this song; it's one of our favorites too. The version with Josh Groban singing is awesome! See ya Friday!

Holly said...

This is one of my favorite songs too! It's a tie with Silent Night.

Cameron said...

I think the history surrounding some of these old Christmas hymns are really awesome and inspiring. It's been fun for me to go back and research them.