As someone who loves music, I always welcome the songs of the season … but by the time Christmas Day arrives, I’ve usually reached my level of tolerance. Radio stations go 24/7 with various renditions of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town and Jingle Bells. Last weekend when I was out on errands, I tuned in one station and heard one of my least favorite songs coming on so I switched the channel to another station. The second choice had the same song playing by a different artist. Arghhh!
I do have some favorites I think I could listen to everyday of the year. (Of course, if I did that, I might grow tired of them too. What a fickle person I am!)
Many of my favorite Christmas songs are old songs, way old ones. And there are certain renditions I prefer over other presentations of the identical songs. There is absolutely no better version in the world (in my view) than Stille Nacht (Silent Night) as played by Mannheim Steamroller on their 1984 Christmas album. With its stirring violins and haunting male voices humming, this version captures everything Franz Gruber might have imagined as he composed the simple tune back in 1818.
Another song I enjoy begins with a flute solo and crescendoes into an orchestral counterpoint to the flute. This song is from the same Mannheim Steamroller album, Christmas, and is titled Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella. The song’s history goes back even further than Stille Nacht, all the way to 1553 when it was first published. The above picture, The Newborn Christ painted by Georges de La Tour, was inspired by the carol.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to know Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella is a Christmas carol I enjoy immensely. Its roots are in the Provence region of France where the song was known under the title Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle. If memory serves me, we learned the English words to this carol in grade school, but I’ve forgotten most of them. What I really love now are the French lyrics which are so much more … lyrical! (For both French and English lyrics, go here.)
Another interesting thing about the song, when it was originally written, it wasn’t intended to be a Christmas carol at all but rather, a song for dancing! I’m including (below) two wonderful productions by two of my favorite keyboard musicians.
In this first presentation (above), Jon Schmidt (of The Piano Guys) produced a wonderful version of this ancient song, using his amazing talents on the piano but also adding the whimsical flute. It’s quite different from the Mannheim production, but thoroughly delightful (in my view).
Another rendition, this one by Fernando Ortega, really captures the dancing aspect of the song. He begins by using piano and guitar solos and builds on those. As in Schmidt’s version above, the piano is dominant here, but where Schmidt’s interpretation is mellow and contemplative, Ortega’s tempo drives you to your feet, making you want to dance. About two-thirds of the way through the song, Ortega teases with a reflective interlude (key change) but it’s brief … and then he has you back on your feet dancing!
Schmidt and Ortega are multi-talented musicians and their albums are long-time members of my iTunes collection. Most people don’t naturally associate Christmas with dancing but once you’ve listened to these renditions, like me, you might be persuaded.
Remember though: the Child is sleeping (l’Enfant répose) so please keep the noise down!
4 thoughts on “L’Enfant Repose”
I wrote a comment a few days ago, but I must have neglected to post it. This song brings back great memories of singing it in French class for years. I still break into it nearly every Christmas. Somewhere along the way I lost my collection of Christmas carols in French and I’ve forgotten some of the words. Never thought to look them up online. Duh!
Uh, I don’t think we had the same French teacher, but it seems we learned many of the same things! The French version of this song far outpaces the English words. As I said in my post, it’s more lyrical. I love it!
I like the traditional carols and Advent music – I share your feelings about the feelgood Xmas pop jingles. They don’t bother me at the beginning but I reach my tolerance threshold well before Christmas day.
I do love “Mary’s Boy Child” by Boney M however…
Thanks for commenting. Imagine what it will be like for us when they start pulling the carols out before Thanksgiving (as they’ve been doing with Christmas merchandise). We’ll never make it to Christmas then! As for Mary’s Boy Child, I wasn’t familiar with it, but I agree with you. It’s a gem. So solidly Biblical. I’m not crazy about disco, but this presentation rocks. Thanks for sharing!