Rewriting Christmas Carols

Last Friday night, the kids and I (plus my mom and mother-in-law) went to hear my wife Melanie sing with the Sonoran Desert Chorale in their annual Christmas concert. One one hand, it was nice to hear an actual Christmas concert. There was no obligatory nod to Hannukah (not that this would have been a bad thing). There was also no attempt to evangelize Kwanzaa or Las Posadas or any other so-called “traditions” that 99 percent of the Christian world wouldn’t even know about if we without comprehensive brainwashing by public school indoctrinators regarding how important these non-events are in our communities of diversity.

That said, I was disappointed that they didn’t honor my own heritage with a Festvus song or two. How dare?

Anyway, one of the best parts about the SDC’s Christmas concerts are the sing-alongs they always have near the end. They print the lyrics in the program and everybody stands up and gets into the action. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I discovered that whoever put together the program had decided that certain Christmas carols were not quite politically correct enough for modern sensibilities.

The most eggregious changes were during “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Interesting historical note: the lyrics of this traditional carol were written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), the brother of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist church. (That’s why they’re called Wesleyans, in case you’re curious.) The music, on the off-chance that you care, was written by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

The concert was held in Mesa’s First United Methodist Church, although I have a sneaking suspicion that this particular facility might not be the really actual honest-to-goodness first United Methodist Church. Anyway, I thought it was ironic that the lyrics written by the brother of Mr. Methodism had been changed for a performance in a Methodist house of worship.

Two altered lines in the program caught my eye:

Traditional: “born that man no more may die”
Rewritten: “born that we no more may die”

Traditional: “born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth”
Rewritten: “born to raise us from the earth, born to give them second birth.”

I was ready for the changes because I had actually noticed them in the program during intermission. I was totally ready to conform to the weaselly changes (I know, I know), but then a wonderful thing happened. Almost everybody in the audience ignored the changes and just sang the traditional lyrics anyway. It was Whoville all over again, though I don’t know whether the Grinch who rewrote “Hark!” was paying attention from up there on Mount Crumpit.

Here’s a little suggestion to people who want to make changes to the lyrics of our favorite carols in the name of political correctness. Before you do this, first look up at the top of the sheet music to where it lists the lyricist and/or composer. If the person listed has been dead for over 100 years, don’t change the lyrics. If, instead of a person’s name, it says something like “TRADITIONAL,” that’s a pretty good hint that the song is a traditional one. Don’t mess with it!

Posted in Music, Personal, Political Correctness