News, Weather, Mozart, Sports, Eurovision Love Ænema & Perverted Videogames from Vleeptron

NGO_Vleeptron (aka "Bob from Massachusetts") recently featured LIVE on BBC WORLD SERVICE, heard briefly by Gazillions!!!

My Photo
Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

29 December 2005

I Wonder As I Wander out under the Sky how Jesus the Savior did come for to Die

Pastel drawing of Langston Hughes
by Winold Reiss

If you're Christmasish and you haven't been bombarded by too much Christmas music this season, here's my favorite Christmas song; I may have posted it last Christmas, too. I find it incredibly haunting and beautiful. The text below says it's of USA Appalachian origin, but it's also traditionally associated with African-Americans in the South.

Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967), the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, titled his autobiography "I Wonder As I Wander" -- his wanderings took him to Africa, Europe and the Soviet Union as he tried to make sense of being black in a world where nearly all political, economic and military superpower was white. Hughes wrote the lyrics to Kurt Weill's melodies in the Broadway musical "Street Scene," and it was one of Weill's most remarkable songwriting collaborations. Hughes recalled that the German exile Weill seemed to transcend culture, race and nationality in his musical understanding.

"on'ry" is a Southern corruption of "ordinary."

Here's a very talented and moving MIDI to Open In A New Window so you can sing along. We were privileged last Christmas to hear it sung in Northampton by a travelling troupe of The Vienna Boys Choir -- half of whom had colds and were sneezing, coughing and blowing their noses; the nature of travelling Show Business among 13-Year-Olds. On CD, I have a startlingly beautiful version by the soprano Kathleen Battle.

I Wonder As I Wander

by John Jacob Niles

I wonder as I wander
Out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior
Did come for to die
For poor on'ry people
Like you and like I
I wonder as I wander
Out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus
'Twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers
And shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven
A star's light did fall
And the promise of ages
It then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted
For any wee thing
A star in the sky
Or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels
In heaven to sing
He surely could have it,
'Cause he was the King


William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

John Jacob Niles, the singer and collector of folk songs, said that he based his "I Wonder As I Wander" on a line or two of haunting music that he heard sung by a young girl in a small North Carolina town. He asked her to sing the few notes over and over, paying her a few pennies each time, until he had jotted it all down in his notebook. So close was the finished song to its Appalachian inspiration that Niles is often cited as arranger of the tune rather than its creator. The melody’s minor keg; minor intervals and unfinished cadences, as well as the poem s questioning pensiveness, make this one of the most plaintive of carols.


Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

This carol was collected in Murphy, North Carolina in July 1933 by John Jacob Niles (1892-1980), a leading American folksong collector, who, it is said, paid a young travelling evangelist Annie Morgan 25c an hour to sing it until he had memorized it. Niles published it in his 1934 Songs of the Hill-Folk. It is often referred to as a traditional Appalachian carol, but just how far back it goes is not clear. Some believe it was only a generation old when collected. Its questioning pensiveness and gentle free speech lilt give it, nevertheless, a certain timeless quality.


Post a Comment

<< Home