For the first time in two years, the Flensburg Files is doing the Christmas Market series in a form of a Christmas calendar. Each day will feature a picture which if you click on the link below, you will be directed to another site page with a surprise for you. A quote on Christmas is also included, some of which will make you laugh, others will reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
We will start with day one, where when clicking on the link, you will be surprised.
“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality.”
– Washington Irving
So without further ado, let’s go! Click on the link, and enjoy your first surprise of the season. 🙂
To start off the Christmas Calendar Series, I would like to start with a choral song that marks the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Philipp Nicolai (1568-1608) in 1599 wrote the original music piece in German entitled “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (in English: Awake, the voice is calling us). It was a Lutheran piece that was played in churches across Prussia and other German-speaking regions for several centuries. Even Johann Sebastian Bach added his version of the piece to his cantata under the title Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 (Sleepers Awake) in 1724. The first English translation of the piece was produced in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth, which was later followed by two more versions written by Francis Crawford Burkitt in 1906 and George Ratcliffe Woodward two years later.
All three versions are based on the works of Nicolai where the text in the piece was derived from the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1–13). Nicolai refers to other biblical ideas, such as from Revelations the mentioning of marriage (Revelation 19:6–9) and the twelve gates, every one of pearl (Revelation 21:21), and from the First Epistle to the Corinthians the phrase “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The irony of the whole story was Nicolai had written the original masterpiece during the time a plague wreaked havoc on the town of Unna (near present-day Dortmund in North Rhine-Westphalia) and it was this piece that served as a sign of hope, where people should wake up and see the light of hope for Christ was born and he was the sign of hope.
In this piece, I’m presenting two versions of it. The first one was written by F. Melius Christiansen (1871- 1955). This was written during the time he conducted the St. Olaf College Choir from 1912 to 1944. His children would later find success at my alma mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Paul J. Christiansen (1914- 1997) would follow his father’s footsteps as choir director and composer there, having established a long-held traditional Christmas concerts, held on campus and in Minneapolis every year for over a half century.
This piece by F. Melius is conducted primarily in C natural major and can be performed on the high school and college level. I remember having sung this with my high school choir in Jackson, Minnesota many years ago and the resonance from the song has remained in memory ever since. This example seen below was performed by the St. Olaf College Choir in 2018, F. Melius’ alma mater.
The second version is a women’s acapella chamber piece conducted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary- Mother of the Eucharist. It was founded by John O’Connor in Nashville, Tennessee in 1997 and follows the chasm of the Dominican Order. The choir is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This piece, sung in E-flat major, resembles a church piece as it is sung in verses, each one having a refrain at the end, yet this one is best performed in a chamber of a monastery. Its echoes can be felt throughout the church no matter where the person is at.
And like in the past few years, where trials and tribulations seemed to be dominant in our lives, with war, the Covid-19 virus and a lot of uncertainty, I hope this season will bring hope to all those who need it. This piece seems to be our starting point as we have to look for the hope that has been missing for sometime. We all have it, it’s a question of just finding it.