12 Days of Christmas Music 2016: 6th Day, “Shine for Me Again, Star of Bethlehem”

Today’s song is a little different musically from what I normally post (largely in that it is more sentimental), but it holds a personal and sentimental place for me. In my family we’ve grown up making music all our lives. We would gather around the piano and sing, and as we got older, we added voice parts and different instruments. I don’t know where she got it, but years ago my mom got several copies of the choral arrangement of today’s song, and it always made its appearance in our Christmas music rotation singalongs. In addition to this song’s place in our impromptu living room performances, many times my brother and I sang it for church services. We worked out when we would take solos and who would sing which parts.

Photo credit by Walter A. Aue

The song has a lovely melody and, for a Christmas song, a somewhat unusual approach in its message. It’s a spiritual retrospective; it’s not just nostalgia but a recognition that time changes our perspective and is not always kind. Is a symbol, in this case, a star¬†still significant or relevant as it was years earlier? The composer, Dan Carter, talks about this in relation to this song. Originally he had written the tune for a stage musical, but it was never used in the show. Somehow he got the idea of remaking it into a Christmas song and mentioned it to a college friend, Sherri Otteson Bird. She wanted to try writing lyrics for the song, took it, but then Carter didn’t hear from her for several months. Suddenly she and her husband called one night with the news that she had finished writing the lyrics. They dropped what they were doing around 10PM, got together, tried it out around the piano, and felt like it was the right fit.

I like the idea that symbols and songs can shift in their purpose and can still feed us.

Photo credit by Lawrence OP

The 12 Days of Christmas Music in 2014, Day 6: Bethlehem

Word of the day: “Bethlehem”, from “Bethlehem” by Over the Rhine

Despite its primary association with the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem has a lot of troubling connotations too. Bethlehem is where there was no room for Mary and Joseph. Bethlehem is the site where, two years after Jesus’ birth, according to Matthew 2,¬†Herod ordered every boy aged two and under to be killed. By the way, throughout the medieval period, towns and villages performed what were called medieval mystery plays as part of holiday celebrations. The annual mystery play at the Coventry Cathedral in England was based on the gospel of Matthew and depicted this event. This is where the “Coventry Carol” comes from. Continue reading “The 12 Days of Christmas Music in 2014, Day 6: Bethlehem”