Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Songs and Hymns for Blue Christmas / Longest Night (updated for 2016)

Our congregation has a small Blue Christmas service every year on an evening before Christmas itself. It's specifically for people who are mourning, or have other reasons for not feeling particularly joyful at Christmas. It's small, and quiet, and for that reason, we sometimes don't sing together - people feel more fragile when their voices feel small. But sometimes we do. And sometimes the musicians just play some music that might help. Here are some ideas that might work for small or large gatherings, and either sung by the congregation, or by a soloist or group of singers.

See also General Advent Suggestions.
  • *Online Resource Dry (Somerville) An excellent song seeking refreshment from the living water and grace of Christ. It will need a little time for teaching, or ask your musicians to sing it. Sound sample and sheet music
  • *Online Resource Drawing Nearer (Grundy) An excellent contemporary song about the lack of peace within the world and within our souls, and the desire for God to "steal our hearts - like a baby". It's great. Free sheet music. Sound sample (youtube). I would use this first by a soloist, and invite the congregation to join in as they get the hang of it.   
  • *Online Resource Christmas come close (Murray) Excellent words, sung to a simple hymnlike tune with some really beautiful images about difficult things and the hope that Christmas brings. Sheet music and lyrics
  • Unknown Source After the ride / He was born (Mann) Not sure if this is accessible (I'll update as soon as I hear back from Robin!), but this has been sung at Brunswick by soloist at our Blue Christmas service and it's really beautiful. 
  • *TiS 693 / AoV1-031 / GA212 Come as you are that's how I want you (Browne) This song is beautiful, gentle, simple, and very well known. Lyrics (search for "come as you are"). Slow and mushy sound sample. A good song to start the service.  
  • *AoV1-192 / NCH092 / VU433 / GA540 / PH544 / GtG676 / GC758 / GC(II)751 / G(3)858 / CP020 / URW191 / Lau676 Day is done but love unfailing (Quinn) This is specific for evening services; I think the words for this are really beautiful, the tune very familiar (AR HYD NOS) and the image of unending Light in the midst of death and darkness is full of hope. Lyrics and sound sample. New words to old tunes  
  • *ATAR606 / StS121 / FFS50 Nothing is lost on the breath of God (Colin Gibson) A beautiful song and very easy to sing even if new. "Nothing is lost on the breath of God, nothing is lost for ever; God's breath is love, and that love will remain, holding the world for ever. No feather too light, no hair too fine, no flower too brief in its glory; no drop in the ocean, no dust in the air, but is counted and told in God's story." Words and full sheet music. Sound sample. 
  • *Taizé / CH276 / VU22 / GtG090 / ELW262 / GA283 / A&M053 / G(II)256 / GC332 / GC(II)340 / G(3)406 / CP094 / W&R166 / PfAS037B / SP28 / URW396 / Lau088 Wait for the Lord (Berthier) Wait for the Lord whose day is near, wait for the lord, keep watch, take heart. A lovely simple Taize chant. Sheet music, translations and sound samples. 
  • *TiS 647 / AoV2-012 / ATN 25 Comfort, comfort all my people (Mann) Easy to sing, beautiful lyrics; largely a paraphrase of this passage. Chorus is “Comfort, comfort all my people, with the comfort of my word. Speak ye tender to my people, all your sins are taken away”. Lyrics, mp3 sample. 
  • *ATW 475 / NCYC'01 / SP&P008 Come to the banquet there’s a place for you. An excellent song by Melbourne singer and songwriter Faye White. "Though you maybe have no money, though you maybe feel unworthy, in your strength and in your weakness you are welcome, come." If you are celebrating communion, this might be an appropriate choice - sung in a more meditative way.  Lyrics. 
  • *Online Resource Kindle a flame within our hearts (Garside) A beautiful gentle song, with lyrics that can be altered for each week of Advent. Sheet music and lyrics. 
  • *Tune In: God's Mercy. A beautiful ballad of healing: "Like the sun upon my skin, I can smile and take it in, and my wounds begin to heal, that's God's mercy". Lyrics and sound sample.  
  • Iona (Enemy of Apathy) Sing my soul when hope is sleeping. "Sing, my soul, when hope is sleeping. Sing when faith gives way to fears; Sing to melt the ice of sadness Making way for joy through tears." Simple to sing. 
  • *AoV2-043 / ATFG520 / CoC40 / NCH538 / SFFS 2095 / GC(II)355 / SP&P174 / W&R223 / ZSS63 Star-Child (Murray) A lovely lovely carol. Very easy to sing. A big favourite. This might work well to end the service. Lyrics and sample sheet music.  
  • *CoC28 I didn't hear the angels sing (McCoy) Lovely statement of faith despite not having witnessed the Christmas events. Simple tune. 
  • *AA141 / CoC44 The wind blew keen (Gibson) A beautiful carol, with simple straightforward Celtic type tune. I hope this becomes popular, because it's really lovely, but also acknowledges pain and discomfort. 
  • *Taizé / GtG814 / CP563 / PfAS062D In God alone my soul can find rest and peace / Mon Ame Se Repose (Berthier) A very beautiful chant from Taize. Music and sound samples for practice. Good for kids.  
  • NCH476 /  CH565 / VU716 / WoV781 / LBW294 / ELW596 / GA454 / SFFS 2212 / GtG821 / HPP395  / G(II)427  / GC603 / GC(II)598 / G(3)685 / CP401 / W&R424 / Cha619 / SP296 / URW170 My life flows on in endless song (Lowry) A wonderful hymn. Lots of great recordings of this are available too. It's not so great if it is not familiar to your congregation, but once known, it is worth hanging on to. This is not known so well in Australia... Might be good to end the service on a note of hope. Lyrics. Oldy-but-a-goody.
  • Recorded music Like Mary and Joseph (Coleman) A song about a man whose family is broken in a Summer Christmas. Worth a look, particularly if there has been a recent break-up in your congregation. Sound sample and lyrics. 
  • Unusual Resource It is love (Kearns) This beautiful song is straightforward to sing, and fits well with this service - a song of hope. Youtube and lyrics
  • Online Resource Lullaby (Grundy) Oh, this is so beautiful; this song has been used in services at hospices at longest night services, but could also be used at a Blue Christmas service. And I just wanted to list it so you could listen to it too. Youtube.
  • Online Resource May you find a light (The Brilliance) Great song about searching with integrity. Thanks Jon Humphries! Youtube. Could also be used at Epiphany.
  • Online Resource Creator God (Rizza) Lovely words, and a very simple tune - though I think it would be best for a soloist. Thanks for the suggestion Jo Rand. Sound sample (track 5) Lyrics.
Sometimes it's good to sing a standard carol, just slowly and quietly. Some good ones:
  • *TiS 321 / AHB 245 Coldly the night winds winging I think this is one of the most beautiful carols in existence.
  • *TiS 317 / AHB 243 / NCH165 / CH316 / UMH242 / HPP95 / CP131 / CP(E) 59 / W&R210 / 82Hml-084 / StF201 / MP451 Love came down at Christmas (Rossetti) Needs one small change in AHB to make it gender inclusive for people. NCH does this by replacing "all men" with "neighbour" in the last verse. I prefer the tune in TiS / AHB. Lyrics and odd-looking angels. Oldy-but-a-goody.
  • *TiS 265 / AHB 193 / AoV1-174 / NCH116 / CH273 / UMH211 / VU001 / LBW034 / ELW283 / GA285 / HPP92 / PH009 / GC317 / GC(II)323 / G(3)395 / CP089 / CP(E) 32 / W&R154 / Cha119 / 82Hml-056 / Lau112 / StF180 / MP493 O come O come Emmanuel (Psaleroilum Cantionum Catholicarum) A very well known ancient Advent carol. Most versions are pretty inclusive. Lyrics and sound sample. There are also two alternate versions (one by Sue Wickham and one by John Henson), set to the same tune, but with more modern lyrics and ideas. See the Facebook Group for lyrics. Oldy-but-a-goody.  There are also some lyrics written specifically for a Blue Christmas service
  • Recorded music Be Still (The Fray) Not specifically Christmassy, but could be very helpful. Thanks to Claire for this suggestion. Youtube. Lyrics
  • NCH131 / CH303 / UMH218 / VU44 / LBW054 / ELW282 / HPP128 / PH038 / GtG123 / GC367 / GC(II)379 / G(3)433 / CP140/1 CP(E) 56 / W&R191 / Cha153 / Srce2-289 / 82Hml-089 / Lau135 / StF205 It came upon the midnight clear (Sears) You may not have thought of this (I hadn't!), but look at verse 3, listed in the comments below (though check your hymnal as they vary a bit). Sung slowly and carefully, this could be really beautiful in the setting of this service. Thanks Adrianne for this idea. Lyrics & Sheet music.
You may also like to include a Kyrie.

Longest Night / Winter songs

  • Recorded music Longest Night (Mayer) This is a lovely and very appropriate song, which you might like to play. Lyrics and source. Sound sample.
  • NCH128 / CH305 / UMH221 / VU055 / ELW294 / HPP115 / PH036 / GtG144 / CP122 / CP(E) 55 / W&R196 / Srce2-275 / 82Hml-112 / Lau144 / StF204 / MP337 In the bleak midwinter (Rossetti) Beautiful. Very Northern-hemispherific though. Oldy-but-a-goody. Lyrics and warbly sound sample. 
  • TiS 321 / AHB 245 Coldly the night winds winging I think this is one of the most beautiful carols in existence. Oldy-but-a-goody.
  • NCH434 / VU530 / HPP275 / PH292 / CP427 All beautiful the march of days (Wile)
  • URW418 God comes to us (Damonte) Very lovely simple song. Could be used as a chant, or at various points during the service.   
  • HiOS139 Through winter cold (Murray) Lilting Celtic tune and lyrics of hope in the depths of Winter.
  • Taizé / A&M847 / GtG294 / G(II)456 / GC644 / PfAS088A / SP330 Within Our Darkest Night (Taizé) A lovely chant of continuing hope in the face of despair. Lyrics and sound samples. Good for kids. 
  • NCH151 / Iona (SBL) / UMH244 / VU071 / LBW072 / ELW284 / HPP119 / PH061 / GtG142 / G(II)272 / GC361 / CP146 / W&R213 / Cha166 / 82Hml-114 / Lau132 'Twas in the moon of wintertime / Huron Carol (de Brebeuf) I love this one, and it does a good job of adapting the Christmas story to a Native American context. Lyrics and history.
  • NCH432 / CH234 Tis winter now; the fallen snow (Longfellow) Simple words based on Psalm 74, sung to O WALY WALY. The words are beautiful, though not completely inclusive in CH234. New words to old tunes  
 Over to you... Do you have some ideas that you might be using in a similar service this year?