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O Holy Night

(Adolphe Charles Adam)

Also known as “Cantique de Noel” this is a Christmas Carol written in 1847 by Adolphe Charles Adam and based on the poem Minuit, chretiens by Placide Cappeau, where the singer of the carol remembers the birth of Jesus.  The song was attacked by some churchmen in France, not because of it’s subject or music, but because the composer was Jewish and the poet was a socialist and non-Christian.

Although written in French it has been translated into several other languages with the English version being translated by John Sullivan Dwight who was a Unitarian minister.  Dwight was also an abolitionist and this is noted by his reference in the third verse “chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother”.

There is a frequently repeated story, although never proven, that like the story of “Silent Night” on Christmas Even in the trenches of Flanders, a French soldier jumped out of his trench in the Franco-Prussian war on Christmas Eve 1870 and began to sing this carol.  The Germans did not fire and instead they emerged from their trench too and sang Martin Luther’s “Von Himmel hich da komm ich her”.

The carol is very important in the history of broadcasting and made history as being the one ever to be broadcast live on radio on Christmas Eve 1906.   It has been recorded by numerous artists and also appeared in episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and South Park.

Recordings:

The Boston Pops Orchestra
Sony Classical SK 48232  (CD – Joy to the World)
Conductor –  John Williams

Liona Boyd and Friends
AM 9513 (CD – Christmas Dreams)
Guitar – Liona Boyd

Canadian Brass
RCA 0 7863 54132 2 (CD – Christmas with the Canadian Brass Band)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral Organ – John Grady organist

Harry Connick Jr. and his Orchestra
Columbia 57550 (CD – When My Heart Find Christmas)

Placido Domingo and Charlotte Church
Sony SK 89468 (CD – Our Favorite Things)

Sony SK 87770 (CD – Christmas All Over the World)

David Foster
Interscope 0 7567 92295 2 6 (CD – The Christmas Album)
Vocals – Michael Crawford

Mario Lanza
RCA 6427 (CD – Christmas with Mario Lanza)

John McDermott
EMI 56765 (CD – Christmas Memories)
Orchestral Ensemble
Vocals – John McDermott

Maureen McGovern
MK 45869 (CD – Christmas with Maureen McGovern)

Stevan Pasero
Sugo 8602 (CD – The Winter Collection: Holiday Favorites)

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
NSS 2066 (CD – Merry: A Holiday Journey)
Soprano – Sara Gartshore
Vocals – Judy Blazer
Bass Guitar – Gustavo Amarante
Violin – Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
Piano – Clarice Assad
Guitars – Sergio and Odair Assad
Drums –  Mathias Kunzli

Judith Lynn Stillman & Friends
North Star 0024 (CD – Christmas Remembered)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Decca 468 503-2 (CD – Christmas Adagios)
Conductor – Herbert von Karajan
Soprano – Leontyne Price

London 421 103-2 (CD – Christmas Songs)
Soprano – Leontyne Price

Sources:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night
  2. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/o_holy_night.htm