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Christmas Hymns: “What Child is This?”

“What Child is This?” is included in the Russian and Latvian hymnbooks as well as the Ukrainian Children’s Songbook. The text was also included in an English MIA songbook in the 1960s and 70s. Well-known to many English speakers by both “What Child is This” and “Greensleeves,” this would be a wonderful addition to your congregation’s Christmas program this year.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed this piece on the 2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional. If you know the arranger, please let us know in the comments! It starts out with a lovely recorder solo by Daron Bradford. The singing starts at 2:11:

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Christmas Hymns: “Come, All Ye Shepherds”

This Christmas carol is available in the LDS Czech-language hymnbook. It also used to be in the old English children’s song book Sing With Me under the title “Carol of the Shepherds.” The Japanese, Portuguese, Samoan, and Spanish children’s books have also had translations of this carol.

I undertook an extensive search for choral arrangements of this carol, and there were surprisingly few! I had to resort to Czech arrangements to find a good recording. This carol is definitely under-represented in the Christmas repertoire, and given its history as part of the LDS tradition, I hope this lovely piece makes a comeback. (My favorite English arrangement can be found here.)

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Christmas Hymns: “Sing We Now of Christmas”

Known in French as “Noël nouvelet” and in English by both “Sing We Now of Christmas” and “Sing We a New Noel,” this is available only in the French hymnbook. The English translation is fairly standard across other denominations’ hymnbooks in which it is included.

I love the energy, the motion, and the minor tonality of this carol. If not done respectfully, it could get a little out of hand for a sacrament meeting. But done right, this could be a wonderful, worshipful addition to your Christmas Program. I recommend Fred Prentice’s arrangement. There are two versions, both SATB, one with a harp/piano part and the other is a cappella. The video below is of the a cappella version. At under two minutes, it goes by quick!

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Christmas Hymns: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

This is a beautiful Christmas hymn known as “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” in its original German. It is included in the Dutch, French, German, Icelandic, and Swedish LDS hymnbooks. According to Wikipedia, “The rose in the text is a symbolic reference to the Virgin Mary, and the hymn makes reference to the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah which in Christian interpretation foretell the Incarnation of Christ, and to the Tree of Jesse, a traditional symbol of the lineage of Jesus.”

There are a few English translations, with the one by Theodore Baker being the most well-known. There is some discrepancy on how to accurately convey the meter of this hymn. The LDS versions are written in 4/4, so I have provided an English version that is written in 4/4 below (for other versions, click here):

If your ward choir has not sung this recently, I encourage you to introduce it to your choir members. It’s a wonderful LDS Christmas hymn that has been hidden right under many of our noses. Because it is unfamiliar to many, you could sing it in the standard hymnbook SATB form (a capella if your choir can do that). There are also many lovely arrangements available for purchase.

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Hymns: “Unanswered Yet?”

This hymn will be familiar to Danish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish-speaking saints. In English it has gone by a few names including “Unanswered Yet?,” “The Prayer,” and “Sometime, Somewhere.” The lyrics are very lovely, although not exactly typical of those in our current (1985) hymnbook. Here is an English version from Deseret Sunday School Songs (1909):

You’ll note that this version is not written in four-part harmony. This setting and the four-part version that eventually made it into the foreign language hymnbooks leave a lot of be desired, in my opinion. The chromatic portion in the last line of the first page (see above) is an odd choice given the lyrics. Here is a recording of the current Spanish version:

LDS composer Rob Gardner has married the lyrics to a new setting that has echos of the original melody. It is set as a song with orchestral accompaniment (and is quite lovely, if I may say). It better reflects the feeling of the lyrics (again, all in my opinion).

What are your thoughts on the lyrics and the hymn tune? Do you think this hymn should be included in the upcoming hymnbook? Perhaps you are the one to write a new four-part setting. We’d love to hear your comments.

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Interview: Michael Moody on Creating the 1985 Hymnbook

Michael Moody was chairman of the 1985 Hymnbook Executive Committee. In this audio interview by The Mormon Channel for their program Conversations, he discusses his experience on the committee, as well as other events from his life. We’ve broken down the 90-minute interview to help you find the sections you are most interested in:

  • Missionary Service: 3:40
  • University Studies: 7:25
  • Musical Christmas Cards: 9:18
    • “He Sent His Son” 11:48
    • Performance of “He Sent His Son” 16:36
  • Mabel Jones Gabbott and “In Humility Our Savior” 19:55
  • The 1970s Hymnbook Committees 21:28
  • The 1985 Hymnbook Executive Committee 22:35
    • Criteria for choosing new hymns 28:11
    • “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” 33:28
    • Performance of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” 35:32
    • Hymns new to the 1985 Hymnbook 38:58
    • “Called to Serve” almost didn’t make it in 40:34
    • Performance of “Called to Serve” 42:50
    • “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” 45:05
    • Performance of “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” 45:51
    • “Love One Another” 49:40
    • Children’s songs in the hymnbook 51:26
    • “Hark, All Ye Nations” 52:03
    • The shelf-life of a hymnbook and foreign language hymnbooks 54:19
  • Brother Moody’s feelings about the power of music 57:14
  • “This is the Christ” 1:04:25
  • Performance of “This is the Christ” 1:09:30
  • Service as a Mission President in Haiti 1:14:08
  • Trip to Jerusalem 1:19:41
  • Are his seven children musicians? 1:25:41
  • Final thoughts 1:27:30



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Hymns: “If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not”

There are nearly 70 hymns that were originally written in English that have been translated into other languages and are included in official LDS hymnbooks. “If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not” is one of these. Included in the current Portuguese, Samoan, Spanish, and Tongan hymnbooks, it is well-known to a significant percentage of church members. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has multiple YouTube videos:

The hymn was included in official English publications until 1969. Here is the version from the The Songs of Zion (1918).

What do you think of this hymn? Should it be included in the next version of the hymnbook? Please leave your comments below!

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