When I worked at Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, Florida, we had an annual “Festival of Carols” service during Advent. (Can I really call something “annual” when it only happened twice?) Basically, this was a lessons and carols service, but I knew that would sound too high church, so I called it a “Festival of Carols.” In any case, in 1999 the theme of the service was “An American Christmas.” It featured Christmas songs from Canada to New Mexico, with lots in between.
The first song of the evening came from the shape-note (Sacred Harp) singing tradition. Instead of singing it in shape-note style, though, we performed it with solo voice (me), mandolin (me) and guitar (Mike Houghton). This isn’t a particularly good performance–I botch a note in the first few measures–but it’s a great song. In fact, I like the song so much that I used it again this year at Church of the Servant’s lessons and carols service. This time we sang it in proper shape-note style, with bright chest voice and men and women doubling the soprano and tenor lines. But I don’t have a recording of that.
Without further ado, here is “The Babe of Bethlehem.”