O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Prayer Improvisations ChristmasAn evening  blog about the real meaning of Christmas. This piano solo is the bonus track of the Prayerful Improvisations Christmas album. We’ve been through many trials and challenges during this pandemic that shook us. And we didn’t know it would change our lives drastically. Now more than ever the world needs a Savior.

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people cried out for the promised Messiah to come and save them from captivity in Babylon. The birth of Jesus Christ announced in Luke 2:11 in the Bible is the fulfillment of prophecy for the long-awaited Messiah. John 3:16 says “For God so Loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is the Son of God who came to live among us and then died on the cross for the sin of mankind, so that when we accept Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior, we are reconciled to God and live through all eternity .

Based on the chant or plainsong, Kenneth Osbeck writes “‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ was originally used in medieval church liturgy as a series of antiphons sung for the week of Vesper services just before Christmas Eve.” Each stanza (verse) below is about the different biblical names of Jesus Christ: Emmanuel-God with us; Wisdom from on high; Desire of nations; and Dayspring. Today, this hymn is sung in churches as Christians prepare for Christmas which is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth.

Stanza 1  Stanza 3 
O come, O come, Emmanuel, O come, Desire of nations, bind
And ransom captive Israel, All people in one heart and mind;
That mourns in lonely exile here Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Until the Son of God appear. Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel. shall come to thee, O Israel.
Stanza 2  Stanza 4 
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
And order all things, far and nigh; Our spirits by Thine advent here;
To us the path of knowledge show, Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And cause us in her ways to go. And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel. shall come to thee, O Israel.

This recording is a reflective musical interpretation of the song.  Imagine the opening musical notes representing  the heavens and the space between heaven and earth. The oboe then plays the melody as if praying to God to send Emmanuel.

Listen to Peter’s piano solo arrangement and performance on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or watch the video on YouTube. This is the Dec. 18 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

The Christmas AlbumThis Christmas carol is a poem written by Edmund Sears in 1849. The poem was set to music by Richard Storrs Willis in 1850. According to “The Complete Book of Hymns,” the writer, Edmund Sears was a minister who believed in the deity of Christ and the angels’ message of “Peace on Earth.”

The hymn describes the night when suddenly the angels appeared to shepherds in the field, declaring the birth of Jesus Christ. (Luke 2:13-14)

The stanzas or verses encourages us to stop and listen to the Christmas message sang by the angels even in the midst of the global challenges we are experiencing today.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth 
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King!”

The world in solemn stillness lay 
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats
O’er all the weary world: 
Above its sad and lowly plains 
They bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing: 
O rest beside the weary road 
And hear the angels sing.

For lo, the days are hast’ning on,
By prophet seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold, 
When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The peace that Jesus Christ brings is “Peace which transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) This recording truly captures what I could only imagine as the sound of angelic voices singing in a choir. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.

This is the Dec. 17 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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Holly and the Ivy

As I write this blog I see SNOW outside my window! Well, at least enough snow to cover my car. It’s freezing and beginning to feel like winter. While listening to this song, I’m reminiscing back to my college madrigal ensemble.

The writer/composer of this traditional British folk Christmas carol dating back to the Medieval times is unknown. It was one of the songs we performed at Madrigal Dinners. Prayer Improvisations Christmas We also performed this carol while touring England right after Christmas until the New Year. I had the joy of singing with my college madrigal ensemble all over England in two separate trips.

In the Prayerful Improvisations Christmas album, Peter Vantine creates an ambiance for the listener to sit in quiet reflection of the lyrics, with his sweet and gentle piano solo performance of this carol.  Taken from Sharp’s English Folk-Carols (1911):

Stanza 1 Stanza 2
The holly and the ivy, The holly bears a blossom,
When they are both full grown, As white as the lily flower,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
The holly bears the crown. To be our sweet Saviour.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.
Stanza 3 Stanza 4
The holly bears a berry, The holly bears a prickle,
As red as any blood, As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to do us sinners good. On Christmas Day in the morn.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.
Stanza 5 Stanza 6
The holly bears a bark, The holly and the ivy,
As bitter as any gall, When they are both full grown,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ Of all the trees that are in the wood,
For to redeem us all. The holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer, And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir. Sweet singing in the choir.

Peter’s arrangement starts in a low key and then he almost inconspicuously modulates to the original key by the end of the song. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.

This is the Dec. 16 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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We Wish You A Merry Christmas

All my Christmas cards are sent and it’s ten (10) days until Christmas. As the countdown starts and we begin greeting each other with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” here’s what I’ve gathered about the origins of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Christmas Romance - Jim Brickman

While the writers are unknown for this universal Christmas greeting, Arthur Warrell is given credit for its world-wide popularity. This song was performed by carolers in the Victorian Era. Carolers were a group or ensemble of singers who went to the homes of wealthy families singing Christmas songs (carols) door-to-door. Traditionally, they were rewarded with dessert treats after their performance.

Filipinos love music and singing. When I was a child, my Mom was the Choir Director of our church choir. During the week of Christmas, my Mom brought our church choir to homes of church members who hosted a gathering and enjoyed having traditional Christmas carols performed in their homes. I remembered tagging along with my parents and eating all night long at different homes because the host homes didn’t only reward the choir with dessert treats but a whole meal!

In Jim Brickman’s solo piano recording of this Christmas Carol, he performs several variations of the song infused with improvisational jazz elements that gives a little more sparkle to the melody. Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.

This is the Dec. 15 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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The Christmas Song

First recorded in 1946 by the Nat King Cole trio, it was written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé in 1945.  It’s also sub-titled “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” The imagery painted at the beginning of this Christmas classic didn’t become a reality to me until I lived in my first studio apartment in Boston, Massachusetts. While living in New England, I enjoyed an open fireplace and dressing up like an Eskimo every winter. The Christmas Album

Until now, I wasn’t aware that American jazz singer, musician, and legend Mel Tormé, who began his professional singing career at age 4, was  the composer of this song. It’s only fitting then that it’s included in “The Christmas Album” by a vocal jazz quartet.

Your ears will be delighted listening to this recording that’s smooth as silk, just like the velvet voice of its composer, Mel Tormé.

Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube. This is the Dec. 14 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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A Christmas Love Song

Next on the list of my Christmas Love Songs weekend is composed and vocally arranged by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Johnny Mandel was also the co-producer of “The Christmas Album” by The Manhattan Transfer (TMT). The song begins with “All I want for Christmas is you. You’re the gift that’s made my dreams all come true.” The Christmas Album This song captures the kind of love relationship between two people whose love deepens through time and continues to grow each year they celebrate Christmas together. “A Christmas Love Song” is an endearing musical expression of the precious gift of True Love.

In addition to the wonderful harmonies flowing from TMT’s vocal chemistry, you’ll also enjoy the lush orchestral arrangement with bells, chimes, and strings sweeping throughout this romance invoking song.

Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube. This is the Dec. 12 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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Christmas Kiss

Today starts the weekend of Christmas Love Songs. Kicking of this mini-series is another original song by Steven Curtis Chapman (SCC). If you didn’t already notice, I’m a big fan of SCC as a gifted songwriter. JOY Album - Steven Curtis Chapman What’s so endearing about Steven, is the love songs he’s written and recorded through the years for his wife Mary Beth. If this song is any indication, their love has remained steadfast throughout their marriage. After all these years, the songs he writes convey his adoration, affection, and respect for his sweetheart like they were young and in love.

The first time I saw SCC in concert was with my boyfriend at the time. In his concerts, he always sets up his loves song by encouraging couples in the audience to snuggle up. Remember the 1st Christmas you shared with your spouse or sweetheart? This original song captures that moment of young love. So snuggle up with your sweetheart and/or spouse and listen or slow dance while listening to “Christmas Kiss.” Listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or watch the official lyrics video on YouTube.

This is the Dec. 11 Song Blog from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

American icon and legend – Judy Garland introduced this song in the MGM musical “Meet Me In St. Louis.” She sang this song in a scene set on Christmas Eve. Her character (Esther) was trying to cheer up her younger sister (Tootie) because of their family moving to New York, right before the 1904 World’s Fair. The Christmas Album

In addition to Judy Garland, this American Christmas Classic has been recorded by several beloved artists including Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and recent pop artists – Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, John Legend just to name a few.

The perfectly blended four-part harmony gently & delicately caressing each chord of the song is the reason I enjoy listening to this particular recording by TMT.  While we’ve all experienced a very challenging 2020, my hope is anchored in the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, the reason we celebrate this season. He is the only True Hope of the world.

You can listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube. This is the Dec. 9 song of the day from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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The Christmas Waltz

Lyricist Sammy Cahn and British-American composer and songwriter Jule Styne purposely wrote this song for American treasure – Frank Sinatra. It was first recorded in 1954 as the B-side of Frank’s new recording of “White Christmas.”
Julie-Ann Aguhob - Silver Bells

This weekend my Christmas lights turned on. In my household, this officially begins the Christmas Season and I listen to my favorite Christmas albums all day long. As the candles are gleaming and painted candy canes, decorations, and lights adorn my Christmas tree, my home is filled with the aura of this season.

Arranged by my producer and music collaborator Peter Vantine, here’s my rendition of this lilting song in 3/4 time! If it’s not already playing, press the play button on this blog to listen. Go ahead and waltz with your loved-one while listening. I hope you enjoy and like it!

You can also listen to the entire album on Spotify if you’re a subscriber or YouTube.

This is the Dec. 7 song of the day from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

Can you please help grow my audience by ordering my Christmas Album or sharing this page so that your network of contacts can also enjoy my Christmas Album?

Thank you so very much!

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Christmas in Kentucky

An original song by Steven Curtis Chapman where he is joined by the African Children’s Choir in this heart-warming and moving song about Christmas [not only] in Kentucky, Steven’s hometown but “everywhere It’s Christmas!” JOY Album - Steven Curtis ChapmanThe lyrics include biblical truths about the reason for this season, which is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s one and only begotten Son, the Savior of the World, Joy to the World! Steven displays once again his God-given Songwriting brilliance. By the end of this song your heart will be singing along and mesmerized by the truly angelic voices of the African Children’s Choir.

When I bought this Christmas CD, I was a teacher at a private school in Lexington, KY teaching Computers, Music, and Spanish 1. It was the first time I ever taught children from Pre-K through 8th Grade. The experience enlightened me to the joys, challenges, and privilege of teaching biblical values to children and the next generation.

Today is The Lord’s Day! I love listening to this song specially on this Day of our Lord and so will you. Watch the official lyrics video on YouTube or listen on Spotify if you’re a subscriber.

This is the Dec. 6 song of the day from (my) Julie-Ann Joy’s 2020 Christmas Playlist. Check back everyday until New Year’s Day as I add another song to my playlist.

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