Do You Hear What I Hear

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!

Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.
Updated: December 8, 2011 — 1:35 pm

31 Comments

  1. Hi Winnie, You picked my favorite Christmas song. What a terrific story about the composers. This song is indeed filled with hope and good will, perfect for the season.

    Robert Goulet has an amazing voice. I had the pleasure of hearing him sing “O Holy Night” at a Christmas Eve service. AWESOME. No microphones, just his voice riccocheting off the rafters of a not-very-big church. Just lovely!

  2. I so love Bing Crosby. It just sets the stage for me for Christmas. This song is very powerful and I know we all are praying for peace. Merry Christmas Everyone!

  3. I love this song, too, Winnie. Knew it wasn’t old because I never heard it growing up, but never knew the story behind it. It deserves a place with the all-time classic Christmas songs. I don’t have a favorite version, there are so many. I do recall one sung by Natalie Cole that was beautiful.

  4. Winnie – Great post! I love Christmas carols and can’t get enough of them over the holidays. How wonderful of you and your children to enjoy songs about the birth of Jesus all year long. I play piano and keep my Christmas music at hand all year.

    Victoria – That would have been awesome to hear Robert Goulet sing in church. I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing those versions! Robert Goulet – sigh…

  6. Vicki – how wonderful that you got to hear Robert Goulet sing live. That must be a very special memory

    Cheryl E. – Yes, I just love those old crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. There’s just something about their voices…

  7. Merry Christmas, Winnie! I love this song and I enjoyed knowing a little of who wrote it. Makes the song even more special. It’s very touching.

  8. Elizabeth – oooh, I’ll have to look for the Natalie Cole version – I’ll bet it’s lovely

    Lori – How wonderful that you play piano. I’ve always wished I had musical talent, but alas, I was not blessed in that area

  9. CateS – Glad you enjoyed the post

    Linda – It’s always fun to learn a little of the ‘story behind the story’

  10. Great post and this is a great song.

  11. This is a lovely Christmas Carol… And Bing goes it so well… Robert Goulet too and that childrens choir made me tear up…
    Great post Winnie.. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  12. Happy Holidays!
    Love listening to Bing Crosby!

  13. Thank you, Winnie for the information on this song. It is one of my favorites and I had no idea of its history. Love the children’s choir version. Music in that setting always brings tears to my eyes, no matter what it is. The purity and sincerity of it always gets to me. I have always loved Robert Goulet. He sings it with the original meaning behind it.

    I hope your Christmas is wonderful and 2012 is great.

  14. QuiltLady and Kathleen – glad you enjoyed the post and a very Merry Christmas to you

    Colleen – Bing’s version is my very favorite too

  15. Winnie,
    This was my favorite Christmas carol when I was little. I remember when I was about 10, going to Jenkins Music in Oklahoma City (a big Christmas shopping trip for us, being from rural Oklahoma!) and specifically looking for a piano version of Do You Hear What I Hear? that would be easy enough for me to play. I FOUND IT! It was in a book that had about 5 other kind of “odd” songs in it, one of them being “Shake Me I Rattle” (by Patti Page, and one of my mom’s favorite songs about a little girl who stands looking at a doll in the window and the woman sees her and just has to go in and buy the doll for her)Anyhow, she bought me that book which was two whole dollars (lots of money on a budget!) and I practiced like crazy to learn Do You Hear What I Hear and Shake Me I Rattle by Christmas time. I still have that book. Thanks for a great post. I didn’t know the history behind this song, and I just love Robert Goulet so much.
    Cheryl P.

  16. Thanks for sharing the songs. I am partial to the Bing Crosby rendition
    Merry Christmas

  17. So thoroughly enjoyed all 3 renditions. My favorite is the Choir, with Bing as second. The message is a true message of Peace.

  18. I thought I’d be able to pick a favorite but I can’t lol. They each bring their own version and they’re all lovely.

  19. Merry Christmas, Winnie! Thanks for sharing this information behind Do You Hear What I Hear. I, too, thought it was a lot older. And what a great message it carries.

    –Kirsten

  20. Winnie,,great post,,just doesnt seem to be anyone that can sing the old Christmas songs like,the crooners,,Bing,Dean,Any Williams,,something just seems so serene when they sing a song,anyway those are the ones I enjoy the best Vickie

  21. The version of this song I remember is the one sung by Andy Williams–when we were kids, we decorated the tree every year to the LPs of the Williams brothers and the Andrews sisters!

  22. Hi everyone, just got in from an afternoon of shopping and was tickled to see so many posts waiting for me.

    QuiltLady – glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for stopping by

    Kathleen and Colleen – glad to find some fellow Bing Crosby fans!

  23. Cheryl – what a fun story and great memory to hold close!

    Joye – glad you enjoyed the post.

  24. Sandy – So glad you stopped by!! And I love the sound of children singing carols as well.

    catslady – LOL I like them all too.

  25. Kirsten – Merry Christmas to you as well!

    Vickie C. – yep, love those crooners!

    fedora – my mom had an Andy Williams Christmas CD as well, though I don’t remember this song being on it. She used to play it and one by Perry Como over and over every year at this time. Rolled my eyes then, love them now.

  26. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs, Winnie. I love Bing Crosby and Andy Williams at Christmastime. Wonderful post. oxoxoxox

  27. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing the history of one of my favorites. Love listening to Bing Crosby!

  28. Tanya and Connie – Glad y’all enjoyed the post and it looks like there are a couple more Bing Crosby fans in the house 🙂

  29. Hi, Winnie. I’m a day late, but couldn’t help myself from commenting. I adore this song. I first heard it sung by my cousins at one of our family gatherings when I was probably 8 or 9. I fell in love with it then and have adored it ever since. I listen to Bing’s recording of it every year. Like you, I assumed it was a much older song based on the lyrics of kings and castles and little shepherd boys. How fitting that some of the final lyrics are “Pray for peace, people everywhere.” Now that I know the history, those words will have much more power for me. Thanks for sharing your research with us!

  30. I enjoyed hearing how this song came about. Thanks, Winnie!

  31. Karen and Cheryl – I love researching things like this. Makes the meaning of the song deeper and more meaningful when I understand the history behind it.

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