Saturday, December 30, 2017

Influenca 1918 on PBS January 2

‘Influenza 1918’ on PBS
Gail Dever, Genealogy à la carte
As part of its American Experience series, PBS will air the documentary, Influenza 1918, on January 2nd, likely to mark the 100th anniversary. A bit of Googling indicated this 60-minute program was first broadcast in 1998.

In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. As the killer virus spread across the country, hospitals overfilled, death carts roamed the streets and helpless city officials dug mass graves. It was the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000 — until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.

The Spanish influenza of 1918 has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history.  The first outbreaks of the Spanish influenza occurred in the spring of 1918. The infection travelled back and forth between Europe and North America on the ships carrying troops fighting in World War I. These troops then introduced the disease into Asia and Africa.

Caused by a viral infection that attacked young, healthy bodies, the influenza killed more people than the First World War. An estimated 20 to 50 million people died from the flu worldwide. In Canada, more than 50,000 people died, and all parts of the country were affected.

A 2001 issue of Legion Magazine noted, “In Toronto, 1,682 people died between Oct. 9 and Nov. 2, 1918. Montreal was hit so hard that it had to adapt a trolley car to carry bodies because the city’s hearses could not meet the demand. By October 1918, influenza was claiming 1,000 Canadian lives a day. During the same period, the country’s battlefield losses averaged about 100 deaths a day.”

From the OGS newsletter December 30, 2017  

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is one of my personal favourite Christmas songs.  My Grandmother, Marion (Davy) Foreman taught me all the Christmas carols and we would start practicing them in November.  She played the piano and we both sang.  When I could read music, I was in charge of turning the pages.  With The Twelve Days of Christmas I would sing the numbers as fast as I could to see if I could sing them all before she could play them all on the piano.  I always won the race and we would laugh and laugh.  These are some of the best Christmas memories.  

The twelve days of Christmas lie between December 25 and Epiphany, January 6.  it was on January 6 that the Three Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child in the manger - the first Christmas gifts!  It was a common folk belief that on the even of January 6 animals were given the power of speech.  

The Twelve Days of Christmas is an English Christmas carol that enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each day.  The song, published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin.  The tunes of collected versions vary. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who first introduced the now familiar prolongation of the verse "five gold rings".

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at Backus-Page House Museum and Tyrconnell Heritage Society.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Holy City

A few years before she passed away, my Grandmother, Marion (Davy) Foreman gathered by Aunt and I at the piano on Boxing Day to teach us this song.  She said it was her mother's favourite (Ida Mae Wilton Davy).  I had never heard it before and the sheet music she used was old and frayed at the edges.  My Aunt remembered hearing it ages ago.  I have since heard it sung at a couple church services, but it isn't one of the more well known Christmas carols.  I've included a link with this one so you can hear it. 
The Holy City is a religious ballad dating from 1892, with music by Michael Maybrick writing under the alias Stephen Adams, with lyrics by Frederic Weatherly.
The song is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses, published 1918-1920.  It gained renewed popularity when it was sung by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 hit film San Francisco.
 - Angela Bobier

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What Child Is This?

The lyrics were written by William Chatterton Dix, in 1865. At the time of composing the carol, Dix worked as an insurance company manager and had been struck by a severe illness. While recovering, he underwent a spiritual renewal that led him to write several hymns.  The words of this carol are sung to the old English tune "Greensleeves".  The lively tune has been popular since the time of Elizabeth I; "Christmas comes but once a year" is also sung to this air.  Shakespeare mentions it twice in "The Merry Wives of Windsor".  Sir John Stainer arranged this version.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

We Three Kings

This is a carol particularly associated with Twelfth Night celebrated in most countries as the day the Three Wise Men from the East were led to the manger at Bethlehem.  Also known as "We Three Kings of Orient Are" or "The Quest of the Magi".  The words and music were written in the year 1857 by John Hopkins.  At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City.  Each of the kings of the Orient tells what gifts he has brought to the Christ Child in this popular carol.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Silent Night

The parish priest of the little church of  Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, wrote the words for this beautiful Christmas song on the day before Christmas Eve in 1818.  Mice had eaten at the bellows of the church organ.  The priest and organist were sadly troubled by the lack of music for midnight Mass, but when the organist, Franz Gruber, heard the words, he set them to the lovely music now so familiar to all of us.  Silent Night was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.  The song has been recorded by a large number of singers from every music genre. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the third best-selling single of all-time.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

O Little Town of Bethlehem

One of the few carols by American writers, this lovely hymn was composed by Phillips Brooks in 1868 while he was Episcopal Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia.  In 1865 he had visited the village of Bethlehem.  His Sunday School classes asked him for a Christmas song, and after writing this, he took it to the church organist for a tune.  The organist, Lewis H, Redner, says he heard this melody in a dream on Christmas Eve and finished the arrangement in time for the service next day.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

O, Christmas Tree

The decorated fir tree was first introduced in Germany about the time of Martin Luther.  The German words "O Tannenbaum" were set to a tune which may be one of the oldest tunes in existence.  A tannenbaum is a fir tree.  It was so well known and loved in America that the tune was used during the Civil War as "Maryland, My Maryland." The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz.  The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir's evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

Monday, December 18, 2017

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Originally sung in Latin, Adestes Fideles, this famous hymn became popular after the English translation, made in 1841 by Frederick Oakeley.  The author of the music is unknown, but has been attributed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692) and King John IV of Portugal (1604–1656), with the earliest manuscript of the hymn bearing his name, located in the library of the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa.  An original manuscript of the oldest known version, dating from 1751, is held by Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.  Few hymns are so stirring.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Joy To The World

This inspiring carol was written by Isaac Watts, the founder of English hymn writing.  It was first published in 1719 and is based on Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18, in the Bible.  The music is usually attributed to George Frederick Handel, but there are some other theories for the composer.    

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Jingle Bells

Who else had or still has this Little Golden Book "Jingle Bells".  I put mine on display every Christmas because I love the vintage covers.  An earlier title of this popular song is "The One-Horse Open Sleigh".   It was written by American, James Lord Pierpont and published in the autumn of 1857.  Its happy words and vigorous rhythm have made it so loved that it has become an indispensable part of the Christmas season.  "Jingle Bells" was often used as a drinking song at parties: people would jingle the ice in their glasses as they sang.  The double-meaning of "upsot" was thought humorous, and a sleigh ride gave an unescorted couple a rare chance to be together, unchaperoned, in distant woods or fields, with all the opportunities that afforded.  In the winter in New England in pre-automobile days, it was common to adorn horses' harnesses with straps bearing bells as a way to avoid collisions at blind intersections, since a horse-drawn sleigh in snow makes almost no noise. The rhythm of the tune mimics that of a trotting horse's bells. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

This is sometimes sung It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, which is what I thought the words were.  A Unitarian minister in Wayland, Massachusetts, near Boston, Edmund H, Sears, wrote a poem in 1849.  Writing during a period of personal melancholy, and with news of revolution in Europe and the United States' war with Mexico fresh in his mind, Sears portrayed the world as dark, full of "sin and strife," and not hearing the Christmas message.  A year later Richard Storrs Willis wrote this joyful music for it, giving us one of the few hymns of the 19th century with the real Christmas message, "Peace on earth, good will towards men."  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

Although much of American, Henry W. Longfellow's poetry was religious, little of it has been set to music.  His brother Samuel was a noted writer of hymns and the work of the two is sometimes confused.  Written as "Christmas Bells" in 1864 these words were later set to this very appropriate music; the bass sound like the ringing of a bell.  The last four bards come from an old "Amen".  
In 1861, two years before writing this poem, Longfellow's personal peace was shaken when his second wife of 18 years, to whom he was very devoted, was tragically burned in a fire. Then in 1863, during the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded. Charles eventually recovered, but his time as a soldier was finished.  References to the Civil War are prevalent in some of the verses that are not commonly sung.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Holly and The Ivy

A traditional English folk Christmas carol.  Holly, especially the variety found in Europe, is commonly referenced at Christmastime, and is often referred to by the name Christ's thorn.  Since medieval times the plant has carried a Christian symbolism, as expressed in this popular Christian Christmas carol "The Holly and the Ivy", in which the holly represents Jesus and the ivy represents His mother, the Virgin Mary.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

One of the most famous of Protestant hymn writers, Charles Wesley, was inspired to write this beautiful carol as he walked to church one Christmas morning in 1730 and heard the pealing of the bells.  An organist at Waltham Abbey later set it to this music Mendelssohn had composed for a festival at Leipzig in 1840.  It was finally published in 1856, although the composer once declared that such happy music would never fit sacred words.  The current words are the work of many alterations over the years.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Good King Wenceslas

The good deed recounted in this song tells of Wenceslas the Holy, ruler of Bohemia, and of his many good deeds and acts of kindness to the poor.  It tells a story of a Wenceslas going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the First Day of Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in Czech (907–935). 
In 1853, English hymnwriter John Mason Neale wrote the "Wenceslas" lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore.  The words of this song were set to the tune of an old spring carol but have been sung for years at our Christmas celebrations.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

This is perhaps the favourite old English carol with a tune as old as itself and known to everyone. It is one of the oldest extant carols, dated to the 16th century or earlier.  The earliest known printed edition of the carol is inbroadsheet dated to c. 1760.  Often sung in the open air like the first great Christmas carol sung in Judea, this tune in particular was a favourite of strolling bands of minstrels and groups of little children, going from door to door in the streets and highways of old England.  From that day to this, this song has expressed the joy and hope of the Christmas season.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The First Nowell or Noel

Noel is an early modern english synonym for Christmas.  Both the verse and melody of this ancient hymn are traditional.  Sir John Stainer, the English composer and organist, harmonized his version for present-day singers.  The words of all folk songs varied with the singer.  These do not follow the Gospel account; the shepherds did not see the star.  Neither the words or the tune of this carol can be later than the 17th century.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Deck The Halls

In Wales of the 1500s, where this old carol began, it is a custom to leave all the outer doors unbolted on Christmas Eve lest the Holy Family should wish to enter.  The melody belongs to a winter carol, "Nos Galan", while the English lyrics, written by Scottish musician, Thomas Oliphant, date to 1862.  Now this lively song is sung in every land, particularly when greens are being hung and the house is being decorated for the holidays.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Away In a Manger

This simple hymn first published in the late 1800s and beloved by children everywhere, is often called "Luther's Cradle Hymn".  Some say Luther did not write it, but that some artist imagined he would choose this type of song to sing his own child to sleep.  It is now thought to be of American origin.  Regardless, it is one of our favourite Christmas songs.  The two most-common musical settings are by William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James Ramsey Murray (1887). Researchers have not yet confirmed the original lyricist(s).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Angels From the Realms of Glory

Written by Scottish poet, James Montgomery, this hymn was first printed in the Sheffield Iris on December 24, 1816.  Included in one of the first hymnbooks in the Church of England, it had a wide circulation in both England and America.  Formerly it was sung to the melody of an old French carol; but most sing it to music by Henry Smart. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

History of Christmas Carols Series

It's the Christmas and Holiday season once again.  When playing the piano yesterday I realized that with each Christmas Carol was a short written history of the song.  I thought this would be fun to share leading up to the big day.  I'll be using Whitman Christmas Carols from 1957 and 1952.  These two sheet music books belonged to my Grandfather, Ray Hathaway who loved nothing better then to sing to a crowd. 

Leave a comment with your favourite Christmas Carol or Holiday Song.  I hope you enjoy these musical tidbits each day.                                                                    Angela Bobier

Monday, December 4, 2017

Museum Gift Shop Meme Monday

Have you visited the gift shop at Backus-Page House Museum?  Call to make an appointment 519-762-3072 as we are on the off season with varying work hours. 
Image result for house museum Memes

Friday, December 1, 2017

Raffle Winners

Congratulations to the winner of the hand made rocking horse - Olivia Foreman. Winner of the doll house and furniture - Kathryn Okolison. Winner of the War of 1812 Kit Cutting painting - Ron Ellsworth. Winner of the watch - Henry Valks. Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket. Proceeds go towards the new roof on the Carriage House .