Prairie ChristmasProduced by Joe WeedBack to Recordings
Some of my favorite holiday music played on guitar, harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, dobro and bass.
|1. Joy to the World (1:49)|
|2. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (2:82)|
|3. Hark the Herald Angels Sing (2:47)|
|4. Greensleeves (What Child is This) (3:57)|
|5. Oh Holy Night (3:13)|
|6. Winds Through The Olive Trees/The First Noel (3:26)|
|7. Jingle Bells (2:19)|
|8. Oh Christmas Tree (2:27)|
|9. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2:43)|
|10. Cherry Tree Carol (2:56)|
|11. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (2:46)|
|12. I Wonder As I Wander (3:12)|
|13. Silent Night (3:14)|
|14.1 Coventry Carol (3:53)|
|14.2 We Three Kings (3:53)|
|15. Auld Lang Syne (1:09)|
All Compositions public domain, except "I Wonder as I Wander"
(Copyright © 1934 Schirmer, NewYork, ASCAP)
Copyright © 1994 by Joe Weed, All Rights Reserved
When I looked for historical information about the tunes on this album, Joe Hickerson of the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress was very helpful, as were other staff of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Additionally, I found much of the information presented below in The Book of World Famous Music, by James J. Fuld, published by Dover.
The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs, compiled and edited with notes by Alan Lomax (first published in 1964 by Penguin Books) has transcriptions of over 100 tunes and information about them.
Note to music historians:
The liner notes which appear below and on the web page for the companion CD, "Prairie Lullaby," reflect my awakening interest in learning about the origins of our folk music as I produced these albums in the early 1990's. Since then, I have devoted much time to learning about our rich vernacular music traditions, and have undertaken several research projects in the field. In 2002, I joined the Society for American Music, and have attended their annual conferences since 2003. The notes below were written in 1993, and were edited to make minor changes after Dover published a fifth edition of James Fuld's Book of World Famous Music in 2000.Liner Notes
Joy to the World (1:49)
Commonly credited to Georg Friedrich Handel, the music was probably written mostly by Lowell Mason, of Medfield, Massachusetts, who published it in The Modern Psalmist (Boston, 1839), and titled it Antioch. He himself stated that it was "from Handel," but though the opening four notes of Lift up Your Heads from The Messiah are similar, most of the music is believed to come from Mason (1792-1872), a music teacher who composed hymns.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (2:52)
The music first appeared in Church Corals and Choir Studies, by Richard Storrs Willis, on December 6, 1850, and was intended to accompany the poem See Israel's Gentle Shepherd Stand. The music is believed to have been written by Willis, a composer who was born in Boston in 1819 and died in Detroit in 1900. The music was first published with the words we sing today in Christmas Carols and Hymns for School and Choir by Hollis Dann, published on October 6, 1910. The words were written by Edmund H. Sears (1810-1876).
Hark the Herald Angels Sing (2:47)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) wrote the music. It was originally composed for a festival to commemorate the invention of printing, and first published in June of 1840. He felt that the original words were a bit weak, and that if placed in the hands of a good lyricist, it would undoubtedly become a hit.
The words which we sing today were mostly written by Charles Wesley and published in Hymns and Sacred Poems, (London, 1739) as Hymn for Christmas Day, but changed somewhat, especially the opening line, by George Whitefield in 1753. The words and melody were first put together in 1855 by Dr. W. H. Cummings, an English organist and music school principal.
From 1951 to 1956 my family lived next door to the Harold Aikins family in DeKalb, Illinois, and we all used to sing, "Hark the Harold Aikins sing," which his widow Lucille recalled to me when I made a visit to the old home in May of 1994.
Greensleeves (What Child is This?) (3:57)
Green-Sleeves and Pudding-Pies, published in The Dancing Master, (7th edition, London, 1686) is the first known publication of the music to this tune, and no composer is given. The lyrics have been traced back to a 16th century tunesmith named Richard Jones, and first appeared in print in 1580. James Fuld mentions that we can deduce from a reference to the piece in Shakespeare, and from its inclusion in The Dancing Master, that it was originally played quite brightly, in marked contrast to the slow and courtly treatment that it receives today.
Oh, Holy Night (4:13)
This moving tune, long a favorite of mine, was written by a French composer, Adolphe Adam (1805-1856). The words were written by Cappeau de Roquemaure and translated by John S. Dwight. The original title is Cantique de Noël.
Winds through the Olive Trees/The First Noël (3:26)
The First Noël appears in The Oxford Book of Carols, which says that this venerable waltz, whose words and music have now been credited to Trad., "cannot be later than 17th Century...". The book mentions an 1833 source manuscript, and also an appearance in an 1822 book. Winds through the Olive Trees is also traditional, with my first memory of it being my sister Mary practicing it on my mom's piano in the 1950's.
Jingle Bells (2:19)
The Book of World Famous Music, by James Fuld (published by Dover) tells that Jingle Bells, originally entitled One Horse Open Sleigh, was written for Sunday school entertainment. The music was composed by Bostonian James Pierpont and copyrighted in 1857 by the redoubtable Oliver Ditson & Co, of Boston. The Ditson company sold and distributed music and instruments, and was partly responsible for the development by the CF Martin company of the large-bodied Dreadnought guitar. One of the guitars used on this recording is a Martin Dreadnought, and two of the mandolins are Ditsons.
Oh Christmas Tree (2:27)
The history of the music for this piece is long and complex, and we may never know exactly who wrote it. It may have been used for a 12th Century student song at Oxford. Its first known publication was in 1799 in Melodien zum Mildheimischen Liederbuche (Gotha, Germany). The poem O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum! with which we frequently associate the melody first appeared in Berlin in 1820. The melody also served for a Confederate song, Maryland, My Maryland, written by James Ryder Randall on the night of April 23, 1861. Randall, an English teacher from Baltimore, was living in Pointe-Coupée, Louisiana.
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen (2:43)
This tune was probably not the original melody to the carol. Apparently, the words were written first, and their earliest appearance was in the Roxburghe Collection III, about 1770. The original melody can be found in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, by William Sandys (London, 1833). The melody that we know, along with the current words, appear in Facetiae and Miscellanies, by William Hone, published in London in 1827. As James Fuld points out, the title can be interpreted to mean "God keep you, merry gentlemen," or "God keep you merry, gentlemen." The meaning may change between Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Cherry Tree Carol (2:56)
In his 1964 Penguin Book of American Folk Songs, Alan Lomax states that this is a British carol about Joseph's incredulity and rage when Mary gives him the news of her pregnancy. Jesus, from within the womb, instructs the cherry trees to bend down and offer their fruit for Mary to eat. They do so and Joseph is appropriately impressed.
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (2:46)
The music for this beautiful little tune was written by Lewis H. Redner (1831-1908). It was originally entitled St. Louis, which Fuld tells us may just be a different spelling of the composer's first name. He worked as organist in the Church of the Advent in Philadelphia, where the rector, Rev. Dr. Phillips Brooks, wrote the words on Christmas Eve in 1868 for the Sunday school.
I Wonder as I Wander (3:12)
Joe Hickerson of the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress told me a great story about this tune, which I had previously thought traditional. Joe played guitar and sang while in college at Indiana University in Bloomington. One evening he entertained as a strolling minstrel at a Madrigal dinner, which was attended by University President and Mrs. Starr. Joe was told to go play at the president's table, which he did, commencing with I Wonder as I Wander. Suddenly an old man seated to the president's wife's left sprang up and exclaimed, "I wrote that song!" The man was indeed John Jacob Niles, a collector and performer of folk music who also composed in the folk style. (Certain folklorists believe that Niles may have composed some of the "traditional" music he collected!) Niles has said he collected the opening lines of this song from a singer in Cherokee County, North Carolina.
I Wonder as I Wander appears in Songs of the Hill-Folk (copyright ©1934 by Schirmer, New York).
Silent Night (3:14)
This peaceful song was written and first performed on Christmas Eve of 1818, in Oberndorf, which is near Salzburg, Austria. The music was written by Austrian Hans Gruber (1787-1863), an organist and teacher, and the words were written by his friend Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), an assistant priest in Oberndorf.
Coventry Carol/We Three Kings (3:53)
According to The Oxford Book of Carols, the music to Coventry Carol appears in a 1591 manuscript. In 1825, Thomas Sharp published his Dissertation of the Pageant at Coventry with the current words.
We Three Kings was written and copyrighted in 1857 by Dr. J.H. Hopkins, rector of Christ Church in Williamsport, PA. He wrote the words and music, and it appears in his 1882 Carols, Hymns and Songs.
Auld Lang Syne (1:09)
Translated from the Scottish, the title means "Old Long Since." No wonder we've preserved the original title! The words have a strong association with Robert Burns, who may have written all but the first verse. The germ of the melody appears in a 1687 publication in London, and its current form was published in Edinburgh in 1792-93. Joe Hickerson told me that Auld Lang Syne is traditionally sung at the end of gatherings by the Scottish. In the 1930's, Guy Lombardo ended two New Year's Eve radio broadcasts with this tune, and a tradition was born
Dedicated to Jeffrey and Katie Kendall-Weed and Marti Kendall. Special thanks to Marti, Jeffrey, Katie and Mergatroid for helping me to see Christmas in a brand new way; to all the musicians and songwriters; to Mike Jones for loaning me the maple-bodied Santa Cruz "H" guitar; to Sam and Marybelle Foster for waltzing in the kitchen; to Dale and Marilyn Barcellos, and Scotty Salsbury, Greg Feaster, Paul Kotoske and Dan Hetzler for building a brand new Highland Studio.
17 beautiful instrumentals, including Greensleeves, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Cherry Tree Carol, I Wonder as I Wander, Jingle Bells, etc. Arranged and produced by Joe Weed, and featuring many of the the same players as "Prairie Lullaby". Some of my favorite holiday music played on guitar, harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, dobro and bass.
Joe Weed: fiddles, guitars, mandolins
Barbara Ann Barnett: accordion(1, 7)
Norton Buffalo: harmonicas
Carolyn Cirimele: accordion(6, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15)
Rob Ickes: dobro
Sid Knee: autoharp
Todd Phillips: bass
Published by Jozone Music, BMI - a division of Highland Publishing Group.
Recorded and Mixed to Digital at
Highland Studio, Los Gatos, CA
Cover Art: Dale Barcellos, Inhouse Design
Illustrations: Dale Barcellos, Inhouse Design
Art Direction: Sandy Frye, Eagle Graphics
For additional copies or information on obtaining other recordings by Joe Weed, please contact
Highland Records PO Box 554
Los Gatos, CA 95031-0554