“Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a Christmas carol. The melody dates to 16th century, France, first appearing as a secular dance tune in a dance collection written by Jehan Tabourot (1519–1593). The lyrics are from English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848–1934). The carol was first published in its current form in 1924.
Like “Angels We Have Heard on High”, the song is noted for the Latin refrain, “Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!”, where the sung vowel sound “o” of “Gloria” is fluidly sustained through a lengthy rising and falling melismatic melodic sequence.
This emphasis on the “Gloria” inspired my setting.
Not much introduction is needed here. This is one of the most loved songs from the Beatles’ “Revolver” album. My instrumental arrangement follows the original fairly closely.
The words and music for “O Come O Come Emmanuel” evolved separately. The music dates from 15th century France. The first record of the words as we know them today is from the 18th century — although similar texts from the 8th century exist.
Whatever the case, I doubt that surf-rock music was a factor in either the original music or words. However, I did not let that stop me from surficating this wonderful carol.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a Christmas carol based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1872 the poem was set to music by English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, There is also a 1956 setting by composer Johnny Marks, known for “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”.
My recording uses the Calkin setting and is arranged to sound as it might have if performed by the British instrumental group The Shadows.
“Joy to the World” is the most-published Christmas hymn in North America. First published in 1719, the words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts. While the music is frequently attributed to George Frederic Handel, there is no autographed score by Handel and no currently known documentary evidence to suggest that Handel actually wrote it.
I have given it a surf-rock setting.
“O Holy Night” was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau. It has proven very popular over the years with tenors and other singers who like to strain their vocal chords — the range of the melody is two octaves. My version, as usual, is non-traditional but does try to preserve the beauty of the original concept.
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African-American spiritual song, dating back to at least 1865, that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol because its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus.
Given its Gospel music roots, turning it into an R&B/Rock-n-roll number is a pretty small step.