Sing the World Round at Christmas
This Christmas season join the songs heard around the globe! Sing "Infant Holy, Infant, Lowly" (Poland), "Angels We Have Heard on High" (France), and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (USA, African American Spiritual) to share the story of Christ’s birth with the world.
But don’t stop with these songs; explore the wealth of music that is available to celebrate Christ’s birth from the traditions, composers, and authors of the globe.
"Glorie à Dieu/Glory to God" (Global Praise 2, #90)
Join the angels’ song when singing "Glorie à Dieu (Glory to God)" written by Claire-Lise Schmidt (France.) This text connects to the familiar Christmas text found in Matthew 2:13-14 but we certainly want to sing this prayer for peace and joy throughout the Christmas season.
There are several ways to use "Glorie à Dieu" in worship during the Christmas season. Consider using this as an Introit on Christmas Eve and the Sundays in Christmas. "Glorie à Dieu" is easily learned by a congregation. Choirs will enjoy singing the song in 3-part canon. Teach the song to all of your choirs and you have an instant multi-choir anthem.
Consider teaching the song in either language, remembering that some choirs will enjoy singing it in both languages. Sing it in unison in one language and then choose the other language when the choir begins to sing in canon. If singing multiple languages is difficult in your setting, consider singing only the first words "Glorie à Dieu/Glory to God" in the alternate language. Sing the remaining text in the preferred language in your setting, either English or French.
"Glorie à Dieu" can be sung unaccompanied. It may also be sung with keyboard, bells, chimes, Orff instruments, or any pitched bell-like instrument. Begin with a random playing of the pitches in a C chord (C-E-G) on handbells or keyboard. The choir can sing the song in unison with the random ringing accompaniment of bells/keyboard or sing the song through once in unison and then sing it in canon. The accompaniment would end by playing a block C chord. "Glorie à Dieu" would also serve as a wonderful response to the prayer after communion using this pattern.
To highlight the reading of the Gospel lesson on Christmas Eve, consider combining the song with the reading. Begin by randomly ringing any octave of the C-E-G bells (or bell patch on an electronic keyboard.) The Liturgist would move to the center of the congregation to read the Gospel lesson as the bells play very softly under the reading of scripture. Begin to play the bells louder at the end of the last verse of the reading and lead the choir in singing "Glorie à Dieu" in unison/canon as the Liturgist returns to the worship center.
"Wonani kupswalwa ka Jesu/ How wondrous the birth of Jesus" (Global Praise 3, #122)
Zacharias M. Uqueio (Mozambique) composed a Christmas song filled with the joy around the story of the birth of Christ. The original text is in Xitswa, a language spoken in Southern Mozambique, as well as Zimbabwe and South Africa. An English paraphrase is provided to help share this wonderful song with everyone in your congregation
There are many possible uses for "How wondrous the birth of Jesus" in worship and concert settings. Congregations will quickly learn this infectious melody. Even your youngest pre-school singers will join in singing the refrain! Use this as a Hymn of Praise in the Christmas season or as an anthem on Christmas Eve or services in Christmastide. Consider asking the choir (of any age) to sing the first stanza, inviting the congregation to join in the refrain. The congregation will be able to sing the remaining stanzas after hearing the first stanza.
This song makes for an exciting choir entrance song in worship or concert settings. The choir could sing the first stanza from the back of the worship space, moving forward on the refrain. They could stop to sing additional stanzas, moving forward on the refrain. If you have several choirs in a service, each choir could sing and enter on a different stanza.
When introducing this hymn to your choirs clap the rhythm pattern of each line in a call and response pattern. Once the rhythm is set they will quickly be able to sing the text. Once the choir can comfortably sing the melody line, invite the singers to sing the 4-part harmony.
Children’s choirs will ask to sing this over and over. Consider including a solo within the stanzas such as asking a child to sing the first 2 lines of stanza 2. It would be fun to have a child soloist sing the Herod quote, "O I want to worship him..." found in the third line of stanza 3. The children could also sign the word "Hallelujah!" each time it appears in the refrain.
To adapt this for use with youth choirs, ask the basses to sing the low A an octave higher. Your teenage basses should be able to comfortably sing the remaining harmony. Youth choirs that sing SAB voicing can use the tenor line as the male vocal part and allow the keyboard to play the bass line.
Be creative! Churches with projection capabilities could show artwork depicting the text or ask children to draw pictures to depict the text. If you have Bible costumes available in your setting, take pictures of the children dressed as the characters mentioned in the text (shepherds, angel, wise men, Herod) and create a projected presentation with the pictures. Churches with liturgical dance teams may want to invite the dancers to tell the story through dance. The rhythmic pattern of the text and the refrain invites our bodies to move!
Glory to God! How wondrous the birth of Jesus!
We especially pray with the world for peace during the season of Christmas. Let us also sing "Glory to God! How wondrous the birth of Jesus" with the world during this exciting time in the church year.
Download the PDF of the music score for "Gloire a Dieu/Glory to God.
Rev. Debra Tyree, Executive Secretary for Global Praise
December 1, 2008