Sunday, December 6, 2015

{Book} Review: The Carols of Christmas by Andrew Gant

Disclosure: I received this product free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. Your opinions and results may vary.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is socially acceptable to turn our attention to Christmas. (That's how it works, right?)  Don't tell, but I've been in "Christmas mode" since quite a while before Thanksgiving.  This year I'm heading up a casual chorus of Christmas carolers.  Because of that, I've had Christmas carols on the brain since early October!  There couldn't be any better timing for a book about the stories behind our most beloved Christmas carols.

About the Book

From Oxford professor and renowned British composer, a joyous account of the history behind our favorite carols.

Everyone loves a carol in the end, even Ebenezer Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of mid-winter mood, like the aroma of gingerbread or the twinkle of lights on a tree. It's a kind of magic.

But how did they get that magic? Andrew Gant choirmaster, church musician, university professor, and writer tells the story of twenty of our favorite carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating, and often surprising, tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys and choirboys. Readers get to delve into the history such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas," "Away in a Manger," and "O, Tannenbaum," discovering along the way how "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" came to replace "Hark, how all the welkin' ring" and how Ralph Vaughan Williams applied the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a nineteenth century American pilgrim to make "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

A charming book that brims with anecdote, expert knowledge, and Christmas spirit, this is a fittingly joyous account of one of the best-loved musical traditions.

The Carols of Christmas
Written by Andrew Gant
ISBN: 978-0718031527
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
224 pages

What I Thought

My first impression of this book was the unique flavor of humor British author Andrew Gant brought to his work, and secondly, how steeped in the material Gant clearly is.  The former adds to the pleasure of the read, but the latter detracts from it.  Of course it is wonderful to have someone who knows so much about the material share his knowledge, but so many references he makes in the course of telling the tales of these carols go completely over my head.  Perhaps, if one of his fellow countrymen read the book and came from the same cultural background, more of the references would hit home.

Writing style aside, the content of this book is utterly charming. I am not only a lover of Christmas carols, but a lover of history.  I really enjoyed being able to dig into the story behind some of our most beloved Christmas carols.  Did you know that a poem by the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf written more than twelve centuries ago became the song we know as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"? And it was this same poem that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein with the imagery and names for Earendel and Middle Earth?  Fascinating, right?  This book would make a nice present for any history buff on your list.

Find it from the publisher here or on Amazon.  

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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