Many of the Christmas carols that are sung today are the product, not of a single author or composer, but of centuries of accumulated tradition. One such carol is the ancient German song “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” or as it’s usually known in English, “Lo, how a Rose e’er Blooming.” Here’s a grand version from the great American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972):
December is Homeschool Holiday Music Month in the River Houses, and throughout the month we’re sharing an assortment of seasonal favorites in a great variety of styles and genres — classical and modern, sacred and secular, serious and silly — along with a collection of easy educational notes that will let you teach little musical lessons all along the way.
“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” — literally, “There is a rose that has sprung up” — is an ancient German carol that was in print at least as early as 1599. The words, which tell the Christian Nativity story, have been translated into many languages and the tune has been given many different arrangements — the most notable, and the one most often performed today, being that of the prolific German composer and music scholar Michael Pretorius (1571–1621).
The carol is known to English speakers as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,” the title it was given in an 1894 translation by the American musicologist Theodore Baker (1851–1934):
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
Here’s a gorgeous version in the original German, sung in Ely Cathedral in Britain by the contemporary vocal group The Gesualdo Six — this is close to how it would have sounded four hundred years ago in the time of Pretorius. Note in particular the singer who comes in at the 1:50 mark — he is a countertenor, singing in the highest male register. We’re going to hear from another famous Shakespearean countertenor just after the new year begins:
What marvelous musical discoveries have you been making in your homeschool during this delightful Holiday Music Month? 🎄 🎵
❡ Musical memories: If you’d like to fill your homeschool with some beautiful background sounds during the holidays, why not tune in to the 24-hour Holiday Channel from WQXR, the famous classical music radio station in New York City. “Enjoy the sounds of orchestras, choirs, brass ensembles and more as we celebrate the sacred and secular sounds of the season.” I have it on as background music almost every day at this time of year. Won’t you join me? 📻
❡ Olden times and ancient rhymes: What did the Christmas season sound like a hundred years ago and more? Find out from this wonderful collection of historic recordings of American Christmas music, brought together by the Library of Congress. 🎄
❡ Lift every voice: This is one of our occasional posts on Homeschool Arts & Music. Add your name to our weekly mailing list and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞
❡ Homeschool calendars: We have a whole collection of free, printable, educational homeschool calendars and planners available on our main River Houses calendar page. They will all help you create a light and easy structure for your homeschool year. Give them a try today! 🗓
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