O Holy Night

Saturday, December 22, AD 2012

Something for the weekend.  A powerful rendition of O Holy Night by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae. The poem on which the hymn is based was written in 1847 by Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure at the request of his parish priest.  Chappeau asked his friend Adolphe Adam, a French composer, to set it to music.  In 1855 Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight created an English version of the carol which has been immensely popular in America ever since.  In 1906 the carol was the second piece of music to be broadcast on radio.

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8 Responses to O Holy Night

  • Tennessee Ernie Ford was always one of my favorites. I once wrote a poem celebrating his career, and received a very gracious response from him that I treasure. Singing along with him and Gordon brought tears to my 85-year old eyes. Thank you so much Donald. What a Christmas blessing!

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  • Very good.
    I have always liked Gordon MacRae, from his years in the 1950’s and 60’s musicals – from memory, “Oklahoma” in particular I enjoyed.
    I also like Celine Dion’s version of this hymn -( although some don’t like Celine whatever she sings )

  • I like this in both French and English. It really needs the full operatic treatment. Adolphe Adam, best known for the ballet Giselle, was more Andrew Lloyd Webber than Hector Berlioz, but he sure had a hit here!

  • The song eloquently rings forth the joy of Christmas and that the world after the birth of Christ was forever changed.

  • Actaually, Adolphe Adam, who was Jewish, composed the music to O Holy Night.

    Adam was a friend of Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure. It was Chappeau who was asked by a parrish priest to write a poem for Midnight Mass Service. Chappeau called his poem, Minuit, Chrétiens. and liked it so much that he asked Adam to compose music for it.

    Sullivan’s English translation from the French, although quite beautiful, leaves much to be desired. It’s probably due to his Unitarian beliefs.

  • You are correct Vicky as to Chappeau being asked by a priest to compose the poem. I have corrected the post to reflect that. As for Adam being Jewish, although some sources assert that it seems unlikely. It is certain that Adam received a Catholic burial.

  • Sorry. That first sentence in the last paragraph should read Sullivan Dwight’s English translation…