We continue our look at carols with a fascinating Carol Story and to one of the most prolific songwriters of all time. His name is Charles Wesley. During Charles’ lifetime, he wrote over 600 songs (at least 400 more than Lennon and McCartney)! One of his most famous lyrics is Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, which many theologians say is the entire Gospel of Christ in one song. The melody for this familiar carol was composed by the famous Felix Mendelssohn almost a hundred years after Wesley wrote the text. How did the words and music come together? Here’s the scoop behind the carol…..
The little known fact is that neither Charles Wesley nor Felix Mendelssohn would have wanted this music to be joined with these words. Felix Mendelssohn, a Jew, had made it very clear that he wanted his music only to be used for secular purposes. Charles Wesley, on the other hand, had requested that only slow and solemn religious music be coupled with his words. However, in the mid Nineteenth Century, long after both Mendelssohn and Wesley were dead, an organist named Dr. William Cummings, joined the joyous Mendelssohn music with Wesley’s profound words to create the carol we know and love today!
We have all sung the fun but zany lyrics to the Twelve Days of Christmas, but – if you are anything like me – you may not be convinced what the crazy images have to do with Christmas. Is this just a nonsense song? Not hardly if you believe the legend/truth that the roots of this carol go back to that very depressing Puritan era in England when English Catholics were not allowed to openly practice their faith. The Twelve Days of Christmas was actually written as a catechism song for young Catholics to learn the basics of the faith. The True Love in the song represents God and the various gifts He offers to believers. The partridge in the pear tree is very symbolic as well. Apparently mother partridges will act as decoys to lead predators away from their young. So, in the carol, the partridge represents Jesus who sacrificed himself for us. The other symbolic images are as follows
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