Wednesday, 17 December 2008

O Holy Night

Josh Groban's Christmas albumIt was Hallmark who killed Josh Groban for me. I was only vaguely aware that such a person existed (yes, I know. I live in a cave) but when the lady at the cash started hawking his Christmas CD, I said no politely, the way I almost always do when somebody at the cash hawks me something, and mentally scratched him off my list of people to be taken seriously.

I mean, it was Hallmark, for crying out loud. That's where I go for cards, not culture.

And then I started looking for Christmas carols on YouTube, and I kept running into him. And I listened. And I revised my opinion. So, for your edification and mine, I am going to let him sing one of my all-time favourite songs of any kind, right here on my blog.

While he may be making high school girls and their older sisters go moony-eyed all over the world, he really has a voice. And I very much appreciate the fact that he sings the song without trying to draw attention to himself. Many a famous voice has turned my stomach when I had to watch the antics of the singer, who may have been mouthing sublime lyrics, but was really singing "Look at me, look at me, look at meeeeeeeeeeeee." Humility on stage is such a rare virtue, and to me at least, a very endearing one.

O Holy Night is one of those songs that I can sing from deep, deep in my guts. "A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices." And the wonderful emphasis of faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall on your knees: a singer's dream.

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Janna Qualman said...

I admit, I haven't crossed over into revision yet. Maybe someday.

But that IS my favorite Christmas song!

John Burgess said...

It's my favorite carol, too, but I grew up with the French version. Here's a link to one I think really does it well:

Janet said...

Janna, it is hard to take someone seriously when they have hordes of fan girls, isn't it? You figure it must be schlock. But the combination of a smooth voice and the lack of theatrics works for me. He lets the music and his voice carry the show without trying to add anything to it, which I appreciate. Plus he puts real feeling into it, or at least fakes real feeling very well.

John, I have never been a great fan of the French lyrics for this song. "Et de son père effacer le courroux" annoys me every time. It's part of the traditional French Catholic picture of God as an almost abusive father and it's sure a good thing that Jesus and Mary keep him under control thing that really bugs me. It doesn't fit well with "GOD so loved the world that HE sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish". My perception may be coloured by the fact that I learned the French version in Quebec, where the Catholicism, on the whole, was not a joyful thing at all.

If you don't mind me asking, where did you grow up? I know there's an Arabic connection, so I'm going to guess Lebanon.

I'm going to put up one or two of my favourite French carols too, although one of my favourites is too obscure to even show up on YouTube. Ever heard of "Ah, quel grand mystère"?

spyscribbler said...

Wow, that's awesome! I'm impressed.

John Burgess said...

Janet: Wrong! :-)

I'm American of French-Canadian and Irish decent. My father's Canuck family is where I got that song.

Perhaps, however, in my mind I've transferred the English lyrics to the French pacing? I really didn't get anything approaching fluency in French until university, though I was exposed to it for my early years.

I grew up in western MA and in Detroit, with the final years of my childhood in the DC area. I first went abroad as a teenager, to Turkey.

Janet said...

Spy, beautiful song, isn't it? And well rendered.

John, I must have got my wires crossed. I thought I had read something about your background that was quite different. But you do speak Arabic, right?

John Burgess said...

Janet, Yes, I do speak and read it, with diminishing competence.

French, Thai, and Turkish, too, though they get rustier the further you go into the alphabet! Your tax dollars were well-spent.


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