A Brief History of the Christmas Carol: What Child Is This?


Origins and History of the Traditional Christmas Carol What Child is This?

The Christmas carol “What Child is This?” dates back to the mid-19th century and has a long, winding history that speaks to its continued popularity today. The traditional British melody was originally titled “Greensleeves” and thought to have been composed by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in the late 16th century. It wasn’t until sometime in 1865 when William Chatterton Dix, an English hymnographer, Poet, and insurance broker wrote lyrics for the tune—aptly naming it “What Child Is This?”

The powerful words surrounding Jesus’s birth give new meaning to this ancient piece of music. Some incredibly poignant lines from the song include “This, this is Christ the King/Whom shepherds guard and angels sing/ Haste, haste to bring him praise”; making it clear why this become one of many go-to Christmas carols over time. As culture shifted further into modern times and more contemporary pieces began to make their way into the holiday season repertoire—with upbeat commercialized songs popping up on radios across America—the traditional melodies of our past stayed strong with classics like “What Child is This?” being performed by bands, choirs, and even pop stars alike every Holiday season.

At its core, each generation finds power in contributing classic songs like this one throughout history in order translate thoughts they share with friends and family at this special time of year—which helps explain why this beloved Christmas song still captures everyone’s heart during the Holidays today.

Iconic Performances and Adaptations of What Child is This?

What Child is This? has been a beloved Christmas carol for centuries, and its timeless melody has inspired many iconic performances throughout the years. From traditional choral renditions to contemporary pop arrangements, this classic song of joy and new life has made its way into countless hearts.

Perhaps one of the most defining adaptations of What Child Is This? was in the 1965 animated classic film “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. The warmth and beauty of the carol’s melody blended seamlessly with Vince Guaraldi’s sweeping orchestrations, creating a timeless moment that still brings smiles to those who hear it today. The instrumental performance also further enhances the holiday spirit by incorporating solo carols from jazz greats like Miles Davis, which offer a unique take on this classic Christmas tune.

In addition to the acclaimed animated adaptation, various other singers have put their own spin on What Child Is This? LeAnn Rimes released her own version as part of her 2004 holiday album entitled “Christmas Eve”. Her jazzy infusion gives the traditional tune a contemporary sound while maintaining an air of sincerity and reverence. Josh Groban offers his own rendition as well with his single “What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)” released in 2016. Utilizing both strings and electric guitars to capture a spiritual yet emotional experience, Groban creates an irresistibly soulful ode to Jesus’ birth.

Furthermore, more folksy takes have arisen through time such as John Denver & The Muppets Holiday Film “The Christmas Toy” (1986). His interpretation is both lyrically captivating and musically swoon-worthy providing warm winter joy both melodically and sentimentally speaking. Additionally folk/country singer Alison Krauss captures true emotion through her gut-wrenching vocals backed by smooth piano accompaniment in her much loved cut from 2009 titled “What Child Is This”. Her sorrowful interpretation reinforces the sepulcher-like image that many listeners may accompany with this song resulting in an ultimately meaningful experience all can relate to making it perfect for religious services or just listening alone from home during any occasion celebrating new birth or beginning of something special in our lives!

No matter what form it takes—traditional choral versions, instrumentals like Guaraldi’s iconic score; contemporary interpretations blending folk rock aesthetics such as Krauss’ version; or pop blasts like Rimes’ rendition—What Child Is This will continue being appreciated throughout generations due to its profound message and enchanting melodies that draw us closer together each year!

Didactic Nature of the Lyrics in What Child is This?

The lyrics of the classic Christmas carol, “What Child is This?” are an excellent example of didactic writing. The song tells the story of Jesus’ birth from Mary’s perspective and uses imagery to evoke a message of religious devotion. The language is simple, repetitive, and does not focus on any one particular theology. Instead, it speaks to a universal understanding that all people can understand; that Jesus was divinely sent to us with a holy mission.

The melody creates an atmosphere that encourages the listener to ponder the thought-provoking questions found within the lyrics. Although the song may sound simplistic upon first listen, it’s deeper meaning speaks volumes about faith and spirituality. It serves as a timely reminder during the chaotic holiday season of what truly matters: love and family. Through visual language like “mild” (humble) and “swaddling bands” (wrapped in cloth), we are asked to consider who this child is and why He came into our lives with purpose.

Through repeated use of adjectives such as “holy” or “magnify” combined with tangible images like mangers or shepherds, we are reassured of His love for us by being reminded how precious He is. These descriptions symbolize purity and greatness allowing for hope in a crazy world—even if sometimes it feels hard to believe in something so abstract at times like these.

Ultimately, we are presented with evidence emphasizing this newborn savior’s true identity which calls us to draw closer to Him through humility and devotedness just as Mary did so many years ago when Jesus was born still in mysterious wonderment but forever changed our lives–for better or worse–thousands if not billions since then without fail for eternity beyond infinity alone..

Comparisons and Contrasts Between What Child is This? and Other Christmas Carols

What Child is This? was written by William Chatterton Dix during the mid-1800s, while many of the beloved Christmas carols we sing today were composed centuries earlier. One key distinction between What Child is This? and other classic Christmas carols is the tempo. Most traditional holiday songs are rather upbeat and cheery, with fast tempos and an intensity that often involve shouting along or clapping hands. “What Child Is This?” on the other hand, has a much slower tempo – more reflective of its more somber spiritual connotations.

Another difference has to do with form; most traditional Christmas carols have rhyming lyrics set to very recognizable melodic patterns, whereas What Child Is This? contains a lyric that does not rhyme and a unique melody that stands out from the standard works encountered in secular music heard around the holidays. The song also does not identify Mary and Joseph as representing Christianity specifically, but rather simply as “maiden” and “lord” respectively – emphasizing it being sung throughout multiple religious denominations.

Thematically speaking, most popular Christmas songs focus mainly on conveying joy: images of snowmen, Santa Claus, gifts under trees – while What Child Is This? features a much more solemn meditative tone that downplays earthly concerns in favor of metaphysical ones. While both can be seen as celebrating Jesus’s birth in different ways then – one through simple imagery of a nativity scene (What Child Is This?) versus others through vibrantly colorfully celebration (cf Rudolph).

In terms of their sense of permanence they: represent two sides of another timeless debate – how should we best commemorate this special season? Through momentary bursting exaltation & sparkle (the old standards) or within beauty & sentiment found via ageless gospels such as – what child is this? Across centuries it’s yet relatively unchanging premise has made “What Child Is This?” truly an immortal anthem which celebrates Jesus’ presence here among us even while bearing poignantly some personal recognition into: how incomprehensible.. His life must often seem to us!

Stories and Traditions Surrounding What Child Is This?

What Child is This? is a Christmas carol that has been beloved for centuries. The song, which was first published in 1865, has a long and varied history in traditional English music. The original lyrics of the song refer to the baby Jesus, but over time its meaning expanded to encompass any young child. It has become a popular carol during Christmastime and is often sung while featuring an instrument such as a guitar or piano accompanying it.

The origin of What Child Is This? can be traced back to England in the late 16th century when it was an old folk tune known as “Greensleeves.” This melody was then set the traditional poem “The Manger Throne” by William Sandys in 1833, with edits containing similarities to “Greensleeves” made by Richard Storrs Willis. In 1865 John Stainer composed a particularly memorable and popular version of this melody which he titled “What Child Is This?” When this version first debuted at St Paul’s Cathedral in London it gained immense popularity and attained a life outside of just religious texts becoming more about celebrating children rather than just Jesus on his birthday specifically.

Although its themes remain relatively consistent throughout versions, there are slight variations between them noting depth of feeling towards family traditions expressing warmth amidst a wintery backdrop mentioning both aspectsof shepherds and angelsrevering their silhouettes from stables afar protectively watching stars above writing compelling stories through natural holiday spectacle. There are also several verses attributed to different authors throughout eras perhaps further humanizing each revision alluding again and again touniversal awakening relating faith in God throughtime-honored recognition shining bright whilecondemningblindness on fieldsof evergreenpastures blanketedensuring protectionin orderto prevent devastation enjoyed by mankind since eternal dawn hence embracing all facets surroundinglife evolving creating new paths tendingto that which issacred lasting one sacred night before slumber now fades creating blissful serenity enveloping loved ones professing tight embrace revealing hope unto us all –always sincere neverthelesseven if temporary –until waking anew unfurlingnew stories pointing towards future endeavors radiatingpeace foundwithin these blessedwords carryingus forth far beyond fear How quaint What Child is This powerful yet pure resoundingly transcendental imperviousalone against pain abletomark sweet beginningsleadingglistening starlight forevermore!

Ultimately What Child Is This stands as one of the classic Christmas songs because its melodies invoke feelings of love and joy during times of reflection & celebration even after centuries have passed since its arrival. The story behind it reminds us of our own families’ traditions & memories year after year making sure to never forgetjust how special those moments were even if we occasionally may lose sightof what’s important along the way reminding us constantlyto focusonallthat hope can bring dissolvingour worries like snow flakes lastingingentle strength All Hail King Jesus!

FAQ About the History of What Child Is This?

Q: What is the origin of the song?

A: The song “What Child Is This?” has its roots in the traditional English folk tune “Greensleeves.” The lyrics, which are derived from a 19th-century poem by William Chatterton Dix titled “The Manger Throne,” were added to “Greensleeves” in 1865 by William Sandys. The modern version of the music is most associated with arranger John Stainer’s original Christmas carol arrangement from his collection of church music, The Church Hymnal (1887).

Q: Who wrote the melody for What Child Is This?

A: There is no single composer credited with writing the melody for “What Child Is This?” As mentioned previously, it is believed to have come from an English folk tune called “Greensleeves,” which dates back to at least the 1580s. While there has been some speculation regarding who may have written this melody, it remains unconfirmed.

Q: Who wrote the lyrics for What Child Is This?

A: The lyrics for “What Child Is This” were written in 1865 by English author and poet William Chatterton Dix in his poem titled “The Manger Throne.” The original poem was not specifically written as a Christmas carol; instead, it was written as a reflection on devotional love based on Luke 2:7-12.

Q: When was What Child Is This first published?

A: “What Child Is This?” was first published in 1871 in William Henry Cummings’ book Carols Old and Carols New. Since then, it has become one of the most beloved Christmas carols around the world and has appeared in numerous collections of holiday music over the years.