Day 4: Oh Holy Night!

An organ renovation is the catalyst of what became one of the most famous Christmas Carols sung today around the world?

The short answer is - YES.

In 1843, a church parish in the town of Roquemaure, France renovated their church organ. The priest wanted to celebrate this wonderful occasion! He had just the idea! There was a poet in town, a man by the name of Placide Cappeau who was a native of Roquemaure. The priest asked Cappeau if he would write a Christmas poem to mark the momentous event. Cappeau agreed.

A Poet Who Understood Challenge from a Young Age

When Cappeau was eight years old, he had a tragic accident. He and his friend were handling a gun when Cappeau's friend Brignon accidentally shot him in the hand.

Unfortunately, Cappeau's hand had to be amputated.

Eventually, Mr. Brignon supported Cappeau in his schooling. Cappeau went on to receive a baccalauréat littéraire and was eventually licensed to practice law in 1831. Cappeau's father, however, was a wine and spirits merchant, and eventually Cappeau followed his fathers footsteps while he continued to focus on literature in his life.

The Poem "Minuit, Chrétiens" was written on stagecoach to Paris.

After writing the poem, Cappeau realized that music should accompany the words. He approached his friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, who eventually became a brilliant composer. Adams composed prolifically, writing many operas and ballets, including Giselle.

"Oh Holy Night" was premiered in Roquemaure in 1847 by opera singer, Emily Laurey.

Eventually, Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, translated the song into English in 1855. Dwight graduated from Harvard College in 1832 and eventually attended the Harvard Divinity School. An ordained minister in 1840, he realized he was more deeply interested in music. His favorite? Ludwig van Beethoven.

Sullivan wrote English lyrics for "Oh Holy Night" rather than simply translating the French. If you compare the three, the original French - the literal translation - and the final lyrics by Sullivan, you will see a big difference. An example of the difference between the three versions of lyrics is listed below the video.

One of the most famous carols sung around the world every year at Christmas, the carol reflects on the birth of Jesus as humanity's salvation.

Mary and Joseph were human beings who had been given a divine task – towards a purpose much, much greater than themselves. They had to choose whether to believe, or not; whether to have faith, or not.

They walked a path of great uncertainty and the unknown. Yet, they kept going, knowing that they walked into a new day.

"Oh Holy Night" tells the story of that journey. Click the video below to hear this Christmas carol performed below for Sonrie! 12 Days of Christmas by soprano, Mariam Haddad and Grammy nominated songwriter, Vel Lewis. The video story was produced by Shafique Pappa.

Click to enjoy a performance created just for you of "Oh Holy Night."
Original Lyrics, the Literal English Translation and John Sullivan Dwight's Version

Stay tuned! The Next Sonrie! 12 Musical Days of Christmas Post is Wednesday, 12/7/2020. Coming up? Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Cant del Ocells.

Just in case you missed it, check out the performances from Days 1 -3. Simply click the link below.

Need Joy? Explanation about the Sonrie: 12 Musical Days of Christmas Day 1: What Child is This?

Day 2: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Day 3: An Ode to Joy and Look! Here Comes the Sun!

About the Performers

Mariam Haddad is a classically trained concert pianist and opera singer. She founded The Performance Communication Company, originally Performance English, in 2006. She has used all of the rich musical and cultural experiences to weave a ri