O Little Town of Bethlehem (Forest Green Version)
The text of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was written by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest, Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia. He was inspired by visiting the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, he wrote the poem for his church and his organist, Lewis Redner, added the music. Redner's tune, simply titled "St. Louis", is the tune used most often for this carol in the U.S. but in the British Commonwealth, and sometimes in the U.S., the English hymn tune "Forest Green" is used instead. "Forest Green" was adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams from an English folk ballad called "The Ploughboy's Dream" which he had collected from a Mr. Garman of Forest Green, Surrey in 1903. Adapted into a hymn tune, it was first published in the English Hymnal of 1906.
"Ding Dong Merrily on High" first appeared as a secular dance tune known under the title "Branle de l'Official" in Orchésographie, a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519-1593). The lyrics are from English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934),
Berlioz's "The Shepherds Farewell" started life as an organ work for his friend Joseph-Louis Duc. On turning it into a choral work in 1850 he was gratified to find that many who disliked his music praised it. This encouraged him to add further movements, the work eventually becoming part of the larger "L'enfance du Christ" ("The Childhood of Christ"). That work is often performed at Christmas, but the delightful "Shepherds Farewell" remains the most popular part of it, often extracted and performed alone.
"Silent Night" (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) is a popular Christmas carol, composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in March 2011.
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is a bit of a Christmas mash-up. The tune we know today was originally written by Felix Mendelssohn from his Choral Cantata 'Festgesang," but the words came from Methodist Charles Wesley almost a hundred years earlier.