Spiritual Songs for the Nativity

What are spiritual songs?

For more than ten years, our Church has suffered from the lack of a collection of our spiritual songs (I prefer than term to paraliturgical hymns, although they mean the same thing – music for singing by the people, on spiritual themes, but not part of the Liturgy itself).

Last year, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute was asked by our Music Commission to begin work on such a collection. This project officially starts today, with spiritual songs for the Nativity season, along with hymns for Saint Nicholas and Theophany.

What you can do to help

Here is a list of songs for the Nativity season (from November 14 to January 6) that I am planning to work on over the next  month.  Each each song, these will be a thread on this blog covering its history, versions, music, and translations, along with any known issues we ought to resolve.

Please ADD (in a comment) anything you think should be on this list.

Please COME BACK periodically and add your thoughts on each hymn as the work progresses.

I hope to have a final version of this collection done one week before the feast of the Nativity.

Music for the Nativity Fast
Come, O Jesus (moleben responsory)
The Ancient Prophecies

Saint Nicholas
O Father Nicholas (Otce Nikolaje)
O who loves Nicholas the saintly (O kto kto)

Angels from heaven (So nebes anhel)
Eternal God, through gates of birth (Boh predvichnyj)
God the Lord eternal shows himself to us (Hospod, Boh predvichnyj)
God’s Son is B0rn (Boh sja razhdajet)
Heaven and earth now welcome their Redeemer (Nebo i zeml’a)
In the town of Bethlehem (V Viflejemi novina)
Jesus came from heaven (Spas nas narodilsjaa)
Joyful news to the whole world (Nova radost’ stala)
Joyful tidings come out day (Radost nam sja javl’ajet)
Rejoice, all nations, God has become man (Christos rodilsja)
Wondrous news to the whole world (Divnaja novina)
You three kings (Trije Cari)

The choirs of angels sing (Anhely sohlasno)
To Jordan’s water

20 thoughts on “Spiritual Songs for the Nativity”

  1. both melodies for ‘divnaja novina’ one is in the current hymnal, there is another melody which can be used. I’ll try to find the music and scan it.

    ‘vo viflejemi nyni novinaPrecista D’iva zrodilla syna’ (not the same melody as In the town of Bethlehem)

    ‘Nyni Adame vozveselisja’ Now Adam rejoice

    1. I am adding Nyni Adame; do we have a workable English text or do we need to come up with one?

      I am a LITTLE allergic to having multiple melodies for the same text, but I’m willing to try it, as long as they’re easily distinguishable from the first few notes. What I don’t want to do is have closely related melodies (e.g. where one is a harmony to the other); then you’re just publishing a catalog of variants of the same song!

  2. If available, it would be nice to have some recordings. As an aspiring cantor, its important to know the notes on the paper, but recordings also would be helpful.

  3. I’d like to suggest that if there is a Nativity hymn with consensus, that it be sent to everyone on the list. Have each cantor explain in the bulletin the week before, that we are capturing congegational singing of a hymn throughout the archeparchy this week. Hand out the music to the congregants and video tape the song at your church. We can upload the files and review them and continue the discussion. We can use technology to our advantage. The other thought would be to upload video of kolady done at each parish during services through Theophany and review after the season and come up with consensus after that.

    1. Ann – I love the idea of making better use of technology. But I suspect that MOST of our parishes are using very similar repertoires of Christmas hymns, so uploading (10 hours over two months x 100 parishes) worth of video, then trying to watch it and analyze is, is probably not the most effective way to do things.

      I would LOVE to have a list of cantors who were interested in working on hymnal issues. So far one person has responded to my requests, and I haven’t heard back from him since. There is no “the list” of cantors, and the Music Commission has decided not to tackle this, asking me to do it.

      I will try on Monday asking all pastors to look at the hymnal “work list” of Nativity and Theophany, and ask their cantors to do the same, letting me know up front what music they are using that is not on that list, but that they would be willing to share. But once that is does, I either need HELP working through these hymns (to establish the concensus you mentioned), or else I need to just bite the bullet and do my own versions, then put them out there. In my experience, some people would adopt the results, many would simply complain, and we would be no better off.

      My real hope was that we could have an initial cut of hymns done by December 15, to hand out exactly in the way you proposes. The problem is that sending out one per week doesn’t really match up with the fact that we have about 2-3 weeks of singing kolady, and that’s it.

      I’m not meaning to complain, really I’m not. If anyone wants to help, here’s what I NEED:

      * someone to do literal translations of our Rusyn, Slavonic, and Hungarian text, for purposes of understanding, not singing.
      * regular input in response to what I post – love it, hate it, or suggest improvements.
      * enough votes that we can actually develop a concensus

      Any takers? If it would help, I can set up a mailing list JUST for this project. Would anyone join?

      1. Jeff, you have heard back from me. I asked how I should send materials to you for consideration and haven’t heard back. Let me know. I have a few things to send you.

          1. Thanks, Jeff! So sorry I somehow missed that …

            I just sent the first of a few pieces I have for consideration and will post here for the group’s benefit as well.

          2. Got it. I like the Cherubic Hymn setting you sent, but as I mentioned in email: I’m really looking right now for spiritual song suggestions (e.g. Nyni Adame, above); we’ll look at Cherubikon settings in December. Thanks!

  4. Deacon Jeff,
    I scanned and sent you the following two Advent songs:
    King of Kings (I think the source of this song is Br Gus at the Franciscan Friary in Sybertsville, Pa)
    Isaiah Foretold (Adaption by Raymond J Mastroberte 2008; to the tune of Heaven and Earth)
    Respectfully submitted, Mike K

  5. I know the late Orthodox composer Richard Toensing wrote a number of carols for the Nativity (including songs for the forefeast season) derived from liturgical texts. I’m not sure if those would be useful, or if you are looking for songs more specific to the Carpatho-Rusyn tradition. The sheet music for his carols can be found at http://www.richardtoensing.com/wordpress/orthodox-music/, and a number of the pieces are included on Capella Romana’s album “Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ.” I’m also not sure about the copyright situation for the songs; the sheet music is freely available on the website, but I don’t know if there might be restrictions on reprinting it.

    Would these works possibly be of any use?

  6. I have a new translation for a Christmas Hymn in a Carpatho Rusyn melody. I’m working on it and hope to find the notes with the help of another Cantor I’m working with. Holy Ghost in Jessup has the melody but it is not written down, and they use it for a Christmas melody for “All you who have been Baptized” in Slavonic. If there is a Christmas melody for “All you who have been Baptized”, then it much match a Carpatho Rusyn Christmas Carol. I reasoned that. Here are the words I translated (each verse should be sung twice to signify the swinging of the bells):
    “Around the world the Christmas bells shall chime, Signifying the Birth of Christ,
    For today, he’s born once again for us, in Bethlehem and within our hearts,
    He comes to us to save us from our sins, so there’d be peace throughout the world.”
    Does anyone know of a Slavonic Christmas carol similar to that translation?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *