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Written by Nancy Ruegg for “From the Inside Out” @ http://nancyaruegg.com
View original post @ https://nancyaruegg.com/2020/12/24/theres-a-song-in-the-air/
There’s a Song in the Air
December 24, 2020 by Nancy Ruegg
Does the title of this post sound familiar? That’s the name of an old Christmas carol—my maternal grandmother’s favorite. Sadly it never occurred to me to ask her why.
Perhaps it was the lilting tune that dances up and down the treble clef, with leaps from low notes to high. (You can listen to the carol here: There’s a Song in the Air.)
Perhaps Grandma especially enjoyed the expressive lyrics since she was a poet herself. I found this Christmas poem in her journal. (Keep scrolling for a typed version–easier to read.):
FOR CHRISTMAS 1955
Star of the East that shone for men
To guide to Jesus’ side,
Shines in the Christian heart today
Where the Lord Jesus abides.
For he’s the Bright and Morning Star,
Turning darkness into light.
He died on Calvary to save,
To remove sin’s dark blight.
Baby Jesus was born a King,
A Savior to die yet to reign.
He left His home in heaven above
And chose instead earth’s pain.
–C. E. M. (Clara Edna Mensinger)
Perhaps “There’s a Song in the Air” appealed to Grandma because her creative soul responded to such artful lines as these:
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing
And that song from afar has swept over the world
In the light of that star lie the ages impearled
Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring
“The Angel Appears to the Shepherds”
by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740-1812)
I wonder if Grandma ever became curious about the origins of the carol? Did she know that the composer of the tune, Karl Harrington, discovered the lyrics while reading the works of one of his favorite authors Josiah Holland?
Holland was a novelist, poet, and editor of the popular Scribner’s Monthly. In the 1870s he reprinted his Complete Poetical Writings. This was the book in which Harrington found the poem “There’s a Song in the Air.”
At the time, the summer of 1904, Harrington was struggling through an overwhelming assignment: to compile a new hymnbook for the Methodist Church. Even for someone with his background as a highly trained musician, choral director, and composer–the task proved difficult.
Karl Harrington (1861-1953)
While taking a rest one hot afternoon, he picked up Harrington’s book, came across the poem, and immediately felt inspired to set the lovely verse to music.
He went to his organ and as he read the words aloud, let his fingers drift along the keys. A melody soon began to form. Harrington included the carol in the new hymnal.*
Perhaps like Harrington, my grandmother appreciated the fresh wonder stirred up by such inspiring lines as:
The manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
There’s a tumult of joy over the wonderful birth
We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song, that comes down through the night from the heavenly throng
Grandma didn’t know Jesus until her mid-thirties, and up to that time had endured several painful traumas. (You can read a bit of her story in the post, The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara Part 2.) But her newfound relationship with God brought peace and strength.
(Grandma Clara, years later, 1968.
P.S. Those glasses were the height of fashion back then!)
Perhaps a carol about joy, light, and song reminded her of the transformation Christ had brought to her life.
Grandma would want these lyrics to speak to our hearts too, refreshing our wonder in a Savior once cradled in a manger, destined to be King, who comes to us with “the lovely evangel” (verse 4, line 3)–the good news of God’s gracious plan to rescue us.
Hallelujah and a blessed Christmas to all!
*Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001) 164-166.
Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.pixy.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.hymnary.org; http://www.pixy.org; Nancy Ruegg.