6 episodes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The cookies, the mistletoe, the lights...oh, and the music! For Christians, Christmas carols mark a season of hope and the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Even in popular culture, these iconic jingles capture a warmth, a cheer and a nostalgia that transcends religious belonging.
But where do these beloved yuletide songs come from? What inspired the people who composed them? How did they become popular and even mainstream? And what impact do their ancient Christian messages have on an increasingly post-Christian culture?
America Media presents “Hark!” a podcast on the meaning and the making of our most beloved Christmas carols and their time-honored traditions. 

Hark! The stories behind our favorite Christmas carols America Media

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 46 Ratings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The cookies, the mistletoe, the lights...oh, and the music! For Christians, Christmas carols mark a season of hope and the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Even in popular culture, these iconic jingles capture a warmth, a cheer and a nostalgia that transcends religious belonging.
But where do these beloved yuletide songs come from? What inspired the people who composed them? How did they become popular and even mainstream? And what impact do their ancient Christian messages have on an increasingly post-Christian culture?
America Media presents “Hark!” a podcast on the meaning and the making of our most beloved Christmas carols and their time-honored traditions. 

    Silent Night

    Silent Night

    It is hard to imagine a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve without Silent Night. Musicians may treat it differently—singing it a cappella, with spare chords on the organ in the background, or to the gentle picking of a guitar as its creators intended—but it is universally cherished. Its basic three-chord structure makes it a cinch to play and its lilting rhythm is perfect to soothe a congregation and lull a baby to sleep—even to sing to a president breathing his last. But it has also been usurped for evil.
    Join host Maggi Van Dorn on this final episode of “Hark!” as she plumbs the historical and emotional depths of this Austria-born classic with Jesuit priest Ed Schmidt and Rusty McDermott, the songbird mother of another Jesuit. To pull apart the chords and arpeggios of Silent Night, we invited back Colin Britt, the composer and conductor we spoke to in episode three about “Hark! the herald angels sing.”  
    Special thanks to the Liturgy Arts Group at Boston College, One Hope Project, Harpa Dei, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir; Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir, Convivium Records and the Ignatian Schola for allowing us to play their recordings of Silent Night. 
    To support the production of “Hark!” and to access other great Advent reflections from America Magazine staff, please subscribe at americamagazine.org/subscribe. 

    Related articles:
    Ed Schmidt's article for America: Is ‘Silent Night’ the greatest Christmas song ever?
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    • 42 min
    Adeste Fideles (O Come, All Ye Faithful)

    Adeste Fideles (O Come, All Ye Faithful)

    O Come, All Ye Faithful is a rousing, controversial and some might even say, miraculous Christmas carol! And it’s believed to have a subversive Jacobite rallying call hidden in the text. To peal back the layers of history in this song, Host Maggi Van Dorn is joined by Rev. Andrew Cameron-Mowat S.J., a Jesuit priest at St. Ignatius, Stamford Hill (London), and an accomplished organist and music director. We also hear from Dr. Kim Harris, Assistant Professor of African-American Thought and Practice at Loyola Marymount University, along with a former Choir of King’s College organ scholar, Parker Ramsey.
    Special thanks to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Ignatian Schola for allowing us to play parts of their recordings of Adeste Fideles/O Come, All Ye Faithful. 
    To support the production of “Hark!” and to access other great Advent reflections from America Magazine staff, please subscribe! 
    Related articles:
    Black spirituals meet the liturgy: Why I composed a Mass for Black Catholics
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    • 37 min
    Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

    Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

    The title track of the podcast is here! Even though “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was never meant to be a Christmas carol, it has proven one of the most popular in history. We’re exploring its soaring descants and hallmark harmonizations with conductor/composer Colin Britt. And we’re unpacking its many scriptural allusions with Laurie Brink, a Dominican sister and New Testament scholar. 
    Special thanks to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, the Ignatian Schola and One Hope Project, for allowing us to play parts of their recordings of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
    To support the production of “Hark!” and to access other great Advent reflections from America Magazine staff, please subscribe!
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 39 min
    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    What would it mean to approach Advent with a sense of longing, rather than wanting or demanding? That’s the question posed by Roc O’Connor S.J., of the famed St. Louis Jesuits. And the Christmas carol that seems to best encapsulate this holy longing is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It’s one of the oldest carols in circulation, with a text that dates back to the 8th century. To uncover the story of this ancient hymn, we’re joined by Cameron Upchurch, chapel organist and Director of Music at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

    Special thanks to the Ignatian Schola and to Salt of the Sound (and their record label Echoes Blue Music), for their recordings of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel;” to Frank Tuson for providing instrumental accompaniment to the Schola; and to Cameron Upchurch, Frank Tuson and Ricardo da Silva for vocals on this episode.
     
    To support the production of “Hark!” and to access other great Advent reflections from America Magazine staff, please subscribe at americamagazine.org/subscribe.

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 34 min
    The history of Christmas carols

    The history of Christmas carols

    On the first episode of Hark! we unwrap the history of Christmas carols in Europe and why so many of them are set in a haunting minor key. Host Maggi Van Dorn is joined by Rosie Pentreath, musician and music writer for Classic FM, and the founder/host of the OUTcast podcast.
    To support the production of Hark! and to access other great Advent reflections from America Magazine staff, please subscribe at americamagazine.org/subscribe.  
    Special thanks to Harpa Dei and Jim Bilodeau for providing some of the original music you heard in this episode. And to Frank Tuson for our theme music.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 22 min
    Hark! The stories of our favorite Christmas carols - AVAILABLE NOW

    Hark! The stories of our favorite Christmas carols - AVAILABLE NOW

    America Media presents “Hark!” a podcast on the meaning and the making of our most beloved Christmas carols and their time-honored traditions.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
46 Ratings

46 Ratings

lynnora2 ,

Great history

I really liked these episodes- hopefully will get more!

amigosaq ,

A Christmas Present

I was born 85 years ago on Christmas Eve, and the sheer grace of that marks my life. As members of the Body of Christ, Christmas
Is, in a way, our common birthday! Thank you for this marvelous series— historically, musically, evocatively shimmering like a lovely Christmas scene. You’ve given the world an unforgettable gift. Thank you. Rose Marie Quilter rscj

Fuller319 ,

Beautiful

Hark is an amazing gift of Advent 2021. Thank you Maggie and Co.! It’s informative and scholarly,
while homey and reminiscent. I especially appreciate the inclusion of African American experiences, influences, and experiences. Where else, but America Media! You are a profound and heartfelt gift.

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