My favorite Christmas song is the much loved O Holy Night. Through a www.thecripplegate.com blogpost by Clint Archer (see HERE) I learned that there is a rich history behind the hymn. That backstory is related masterfully by author Ace Collins in his book: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas.
I wrote to Mr. Collins and he kindly gave me permission to share his research into the genesis of the hymn in this post. I believe you will find his account of the song fascinating.
[You may also be interested in checking out Mr. Collins’ website (Here). It contains a link to a YouTube video where he discusses his approach to storytelling. (HERE) I believe you’ll enjoy viewing it.] RMF
O holy night!
By Ace Collins
The strange and fascinating story of “O Holy Night” began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.
In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.
In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France’s capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, “Cantique de Noel” had been completed.
Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his “Cantique de Noel” was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.
The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg. Continue reading