Historical romance novelist Tara Johnson’s upcoming novel All Through the Night features a Cadence Piper, a young heroine whose gift of music inspires wounded soldiers during the dark days of the Civil War. A musician and singer herself, Tara shared a list of her own favorite Christmas hymns and carols. Read the post here to see if you share some favorites with the author.
For me, Christmas is synonymous with music, and since my upcoming release All Through the Night features a singer, and since I’m a singer myself, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite Christmas tunes with you. Some of these I love for their soaring melodies or haunting harmonies, but most I adore because of the message that rings out from the first measure to the last.
1. “O Holy Night”
This song never grows old and gives me sweet chills every time I hear it. It was made even more special to me several years ago when I discovered it caused a cease-fire in the middle of a bloody battle.
During the Franco-Prussian War, legend says that during a lull in the fighting, a French soldier stood up from his muddy trench with no weapon in hand and began singing “Cantique de Noel.” Upon hearing the beautiful rendering, the German soldiers were so moved, they began singing as well.
It gets better, though. On Christmas Eve in 1906, Reginald Fessenden was experimenting with combining the telegraph with a crude kind of microphone. Fessenden began reading the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke chapter 2. He finished by picking up his violin and playing the strains of “O Holy Night,” making it the first song ever to be played over the airwaves.
2. “Carol of the Bells”
Any rendition of this beauty is wonderful, but I confess to be partial to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version, which infuses a bit of rock into the mysterious moodiness of this carol. It’s so haunting. I love to crank up the orchestra through my speakers and play along on my piano. (I may or may not pretend to be a rock star while performing it in my living room.)
3. “Sleigh Ride”
This tune sounds like Christmas. Growing up, I would feel anticipation down to my toes when Dad would slip the Christmas record onto the turntable. When I heard the opening strains of “Sleigh Ride” through the pops and scratches of the needle on vinyl, my brother and I would pretend to gallop on our imaginary horses through a snowy hillside. Christmas was coming!
4. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had suffered great loss when his wife died after being severely burned in a house fire. When his son enlisted in the Civil War and was later wounded, the fifty-seven-year-old widower and father of six watched his oldest son fight for his life on Christmas Day. He listened to the cheerful chime of church bells ring throughout a land torn apart by war. Fearing evil would overpower God’s goodness, he poured out his despair through paper and ink, but then God spoke to him in a powerful way.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Longfellow saw the fulfillment of a portion of God’s beautiful hope when physicians later announced his son Charley avoided being paralyzed as the bullet missed his spine by less than an inch.
5. “Be Born in Me”
This modern retelling of the angel coming to Mary is one of my favorites. Pondering what wonders must have flooded her mind is sobering. I sing this every year at my church and I have the hardest time choking back tears when it comes to the line, “I’ll hold you in the beginning. You will hold me in the end. Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem. Be born in me . . .”
What a beautiful prayer.
A side note: In my humble opinion, no Christmas playlist is complete without Michael Bublé’s album Christmas.
If you’d like to hear some of my Christmas tunes, head over to my Reverbnation page: reverbnation.com/tarajohnson.