07 December 2012

Sing We All of Christmas: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

A fascinating trio of men are behind the text, tune, and harmonization of this carol found in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (130).
The man behind the text, Edward Hamilton Sears, wrote poetry from his youth up.  He once proved he had written two verses of poetry (written on his hat with chalk) by immediately writing a third.  He grew up to be a preacher and often wrote songs to reinforce the messages he preached.
The tune, CAROL, was written by Richard Storrs Willis, who was born in Massachusetts and later studied music in Germany, where he became a close friend of Felix Mendelssohn.
This particular harmonization was written by Uzziah Christopher Burnap, who, like Willis, studied music in Europe (but in France).  He came back to the U.S., and while he was heavily involved in music for most of his life, he made a living as a dry goods merchant.
Perhaps this combination of men who made this carol what it is illustrate the reality of Christianity:  Whatever varied circumstances shape the life, we may all join together in then praise of our Savior.
And all combine to give this beautifully sublime message of hope not not only meant for the shepherds of long ago, but also for me, for you.
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King;"
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow--
Look now! For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing,
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing.
[For more information, check my source:  The Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.]

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