Hello, Winnie here. I love Christmas carols. And not just at Christmas time – all year round. I raised my children to love them as well. When they were little, one of our nightly rituals was for me to go to each of their rooms at bedtime and sing them a song. Among the usual (and not so usual) lullabies were show tunes and, yes, Christmas carols. Many’s the night I would get requests for The First Noel, or Away In A Manger or Angels We Have Heard On High. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we decided to do a special spotlight on Christmas carols event here at Wildflower Junction.
The song I picked to focus on was Do You Hear What I Hear, Partly because I’ve always liked the song and partly because I was curious to learn a bit about its history. And what I learned surprised me.
I’d always figured this was a long standing traditional carol with European roots. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, it wasn’t even written as a Christmas carol at all.
A little of the song’s history. The lyricist was a man named Noel Regney (what an appropriate name!). He was a Frenchman born in 1922 and trained as a classical composer. Noel was drafted into the German army during WWII. He hated the Nazis and secretly joined the French Resistance. The horrors he witnessed during the war haunted him throughout most of his life.
After the war, Noel worked in French Indochina for the French Overseas Radio Service and then in 1952 moved to theUS. There he met Gloria Shayne a pianist working in a hotel dining room and the two were married. The couple wrote a number of successful songs in the 50s and early 60s. Normally it was Gloria who wrote the lyrics and Noel who wrote the music. But in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Noel, who had experienced the horrors of war firsthand, was moved to write the lyrics of this song as a plea for peace. In a later interview, Noel Regney made this statement “I am amazed that people can think they know the song and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sounds and our attention spans are so short.”
Noel’s favorite version was the one sung by Robert Goulet. You can hear it here
My favorite is this one, sung by Bing Crosby
And of course there is nothing more touching than a song such as this sung by a youth choir. You can hear one such version here
To all of you out there I’d like to wish you a very joyful and blessed Christmas!