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Christmas carols have rich history

December 24, 2011

Recently I researched the background of one of my favorite carols. A wine merchant in Roquemaure, France, who served as mayor of that town, was asked to write a poem for the Christmas Eve mass. Placide Cappeau (1808-77) began penning the words as he traveled on a business trip to Paris. By the time of his arrival, “Cantique de Noel” was finished. Cappeau strongly felt that his lyrics needed to be put to music; therefore, he turned to the composer Adolphe Charles Adams (1803-56) in Paris, who was at the pinnacle of his composing career. Adams coalesced Cappeau’s lyrics to music.     
Initially the song gained acceptance by the church in France, but it was denounced by the church when Cappeau’s and Adams’s reputations became known. The poet had become a radical socialist. Church leaders also learned that Adams did not view Jesus as the Son of God. Even though the church tried to bury the song, the French continued to sing it. By the mid-nineteenth century it was published in English, having been translated from “Cantique de Noel” to “O Holy Night.”
[1] holy (HO-lee)
A. venerated as or as if sacred
B. heavenly
C. meteoric 
D. one of a kind
[2] Which one is Adams’s masterpiece?
A. “The Bohemian Girl”
B. “Carmen”
C. “Tremonisha”  
D. “Giselle”
No. 1 is A. “The Bohemian Girl” is an 1843 opera by Michael William Balfe (1808-70). “Carmen” and “Treemonisha” are by Georges Bizet (1838-75) and Scott Joplin (1868-1917), respectively. D is the answer.
[3] denounce (di-NOUNCE)
A. to announce formally the termination of
B. to pronounce publically to be blameworthy
C. to accuse
D. All of the above
[4] coalesce (ko-uh-LESS)
A. to unite into a whole
B. to publish
C. to edit
D. to ameliorate
No. 3 is D. No. 4 is A.
[5] What was the song played on the first radio broadcast on Christmas Eve 1906?      
A. “O Holy Night”
B. “Silent Night”
C. “Joy to the World”
D. “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”
Email me for the story about the first broadcast of voice and music. A is the answer.
Last week’s mystery word is capstone.
This week’s mystery word to solve is the word for something that you can do to aid you in meditation.  

Don Vaughan is a professor at East Mississippi Community College. Email him at

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