Christmas Lullaby - Liner Notes

1. The Holly and the Ivy
The use of holly and ivy at religious winter celebrations has pre-Christian roots. In early pagan traditions, the holly was a masculine symbol and ivy feminine. Lines in the song such as “The rising of the sun” refer to celebrations of the winter solstice. Evergreen holly is also revered in many cultures as a symbol of defiance of the harsh winter weather. Holly and ivy became Christian symbols in the Middle Ages. The wreath of holly represented the crown of thorns worn by Christ.

2. Away in a Manger
Religious reformer Martin Luther is considered by some to be the composer of this carol, although without question the modern version comes from nineteenth-century American composer William James Kirkpatrick. The first two verses were by an anonymous author as part of the Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families by J. C. File, and the third verse is by John Thomas McFarland (1851-1913).
Flow Gently Sweet Afton
The poem by Robert Burns was first published in the Scots Musical Museum in 1792. The melody was written by Alexander Hume. The carol “Away in a Manger” has often been sung to this same tune.

3. The Snow Lay on the Ground
This is a traditional Irish carol with words set to the hymn “Venite Adoremus.”
The snow lay on the ground
The stars shown bright
When Christ our Lord was born
On Christmas night.
Venite adoremus dominum

4. Polish Lullaby (Lulajze Jezuniu)
Also known as Jesus’ Lullaby, this melody was adapted by Chopin and appeared in his Scherzo in B minor, Opus 20.
Cold Is the Morning
Many different lyrics in a number of languages have been set to this Czech melody, including French, German, and English.
Cold is the morning and bleak is the day
Warm are our hearts as the sunshine of May

5. A Prayer for St. Bridget (Gabhaim Molta Bríde)
According to legend, St. Bridget was the daughter of Dubhthach, a chieftain of Ireland, and Brocca, a slave at his court. Bridget was born in 452 A.D. near Dundalk in County Louth. She set up her famous Convent of Cill-Dara (Kildare) in 468 A.D. Bridget was lovingly called the “Queen of the South” and the “Mary of the Gael,” and according to The Book of Armagh, she enjoyed a wonderful friendship with St. Patrick. Briget died February 1, 525 A.D.
Gabriel’s Message
This Basque carol about the Annunciation dates from the early nineteenth century.
The Angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.

6. Christ Child's Lullaby
This carol from the Outer Hebrides Islands was originally a Gaelic carol titled “Taladh Chriasda.” “Christ Child's Lullaby” was translated into English in 1855. It is said that Father Ranald Rankin wrote verses for his congregation in Maidert to sing in Gaelic at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, as it is to this day in Scottish churches.

7. St. Basil’s Hymn (The Kalanta of the New Year)
This is Malcolm Dalglish’s arrangement of the Greek Orthodox carol, adapted by Kim for the harp. Greek children would sing this song continuously on New Year’s Day until they were paid to stop. For Malcolm’s vocal arrangement, go to

8. In the Bleak Midwinter
The lyrics to this hymn are a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). The poem evolved into a hymn and became popular when Gustav Holst (1874-1934) wrote the tune “Cranham” specifically for the text in 1906.

9. Verbum Supernum Prodiens
This hymn comes from approximately the seventh century. It was one of a group of hymns sung in daily devotions during Advent (the four weeks before Christmas).

10. The First Noël
Use of the word Nowell in English is first seen in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the fourteenth century. The word comes from the French word Noël, meaning Christmas. The carol’s origin was considered to be French but is now believed to be sixteenth-century English. The melody of the refrain “Born is the King” was modified in the nineteenth century, and the changes became permanent.

11. Of the Father’s Love Begotten
Aurelius Clemens Prudentius wrote the original text “Corde natus ex Parentis” in the fourth century. Prudentius was a prominent writer in the Roman empire who became a Christian poet. The text was translated and set to the melody “Divinum Mysterium” by John Mason Neale in 1854. The melody comes from the collection Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae written in 1852.

12. Scottish Lullaby
This Scottish melody dates from the seventeenth century. It is also known as “O My Deir Heart,” “Balloo Lammy,” and “Balulalow.”
O my deir heart, young Jesus sweet,
Prepare thy cradle in my spreit;
And I sall rock thee in my heart
And never mair from thee depart.

13. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
This hymn was originally a sixteenth-century German Catholic song that compared Mary to a rose, in reference to the Song of Solomon 2:1—“I am [the] rose of Sharon, [and the] lily of the valleys.”

14. The Babe of Bethlehem
This song is from the shape-note tradition and appears in the book Southern Harmony by William Walker (1853). In this type of group singing, the note heads have four different shapes to indicate their pitch in the musical scale.
The city's name is Bethlehem
In which God hath appointed,
This glorious morn a Savior's born
For him God hath anointed.

15. Silent Night
In the Austrian village Oberndorf, when the church organ broke on Christmas Eve, 1818, Fr. Joseph Moor was requested to come up with a replacement piece of music suitable for non-organ instruments. Within several hours Moor wrote the words for this hymn, and schoolteacher Franz Gruber composed the music for voices and guitar. After Christmas the tune was popularized by traveling vocalists. Tyrolean singers eventually brought the song to America.

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