Arts

WABE Music Contributor Dr. Scott Stewart Shares A List Of Christmas Carols In A Minor Key

WABE music contributor Dr. Scott Stewart joined "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes to share and examine a few minor mode holiday hits.
WABE music contributor Dr. Scott Stewart joined "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes to share and examine a few minor mode holiday hits.
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There is music all around to remind us that Christmas is right around the corner.

Christmas carols come in different sizes, colors and flavors, including quite a few — surprisingly — in a minor key, which we often associate with sadness.

WABE music contributor Dr. Scott Stewart joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to share and examine a few of these minor mode holiday hits.

Carol of the Bells,” also known as the “Ukrainian Bell Carol,” is a popular Christmas jingle in the minor mode. The original text of the song had nothing to do with Christmas.

“It’s a Ukranian song called “Shchedryk” composed in 1916 by Mykola Leontovych. Essentially, it says ‘the swallow is a herald of spring coming.’  American choir director Peter Wilhousky wrote English lyrics to the piece, and it premiered in Carnegie Hall in 1921,” said Stewart.

One of the more haunting, sad tunes in the minor mode is the “Coventry Carol.”

“This is one of the darker side stories of Christmas,” Stewart said. “This tune originated in Coventry, England, known for the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. This mystery play chronicled the story of King Herod’s slaughter of all males under the age of 2 when he heard of the birth of Jesus. It is sad subject matter — a lullaby sung by mothers to the children who would be killed.”

Other songs in minor mode, such as “Patapan,” can be more upbeat, with a vigorous rhythm and quick tempo.

“This is a fantastic French Christmas carol composed by Bernard de la Monnoye, first published around 1720,” Stewart said.

“The lyrics center around Christ’s birth from the perspective of the shepherds — abiding their flock — playing music in the fields.”

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