Christmas is less than a week away and this is the time when I’m both exhausted and exhilarated! As I was thinking about all that still needed to be done before The Day arrives next week, a song came to mind. It’s an old hymn/carol but one that doesn’t seem to be played (or sung) much anymore.
The song was written by a poet (also an editor and novelist) named Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) who was (apparently) better known for his editing and prose compositions, but wrote multiple volumes of poetry as well as the lyrics for “There’s a Song in The Air.” The United Methodist Reporter (online) offers an interesting history of this song and additionally, information about the life and work of Josiah Holland. Holland’s connections to many of the great poets of his day are an interesting side note.
I searched for a YouTube presentation of the song, but failed to locate one I cared to include here. I’m kind of particular about the music I recommend (as well as what I listen to myself). If it sounds the least bit “churchy,” I’ll look elsewhere.
What I mean by “churchy” is the stereotypical organ (or organ/piano) intro taped from a tinny-sounding auditorium where the choir delivers its song to one or two central microphones (that also capture the sounds of people coughing, small children crying and every other noise). Unfortunately, if you’ve heard this kind of recording, you know what I’m talking about!
Call me a music snob if you like. I’ll give you no argument there. I’m spoiled. When it comes to music (whether religious or secular), I’m listening for a particular sound … and I’m also stubborn to the point of rejecting music that doesn’t exemplify that particular sound.
In my view, There’s a Song in The Air should be sung by a boys’ choir. Their voices haven’t yet changed, and their rich alto sound is neither harsh nor shrill (which is important with this song). Here are Holland’s lyrics:
There’s a song in the air!
There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
There’s a tumult of joy
o’er the wonderful birth,
for the Virgin’s sweet boy
is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! The star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
In the light of that star,
lie the ages impearled;
and that song from afar
has swept over the world.
Every hearth is a flame, and the beautiful sing
in the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!
We rejoice in the light,
and we echo the song,
that comes down through the night
from the heavenly throng.
Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
and we greet in His cradle our Savior and King.
I found a nice flute rendition that combines two melodies: There’s a Song in The Air with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Though I had hoped to locate a vocal performance worthy of recommendation, this instrumental version is certainly beautiful and inspirational.
I know as I go about preparing for Christmas Day, this hymn from long ago will be a pleasant reminder of exactly why there’s a song in the air.