Listen at Christmas: Matthew Culloton and The Singers

When surrounded by relatively homogenized media images of Christmas, I find it wonderfully refreshing to contemplate the Christmas narrative inside a different cultural frame. To help us do that, here is the Huron Carol,* also known as “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” performed here by one of my new favorite sources for lovely choral music. Matthew Culloton directs The Singers — Minnesota Choral Artists. This is from their album, Dulci Jubilo: Christmas with The Singers.

 

The lyrics below differ slightly from the recording (and include an extra verse). As transcendent as the vocals are, it’s easier for me to settle into the new cultural frame when I’m reading the words as well as hearing them. Can you picture this scene?

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wondering hunters heard the hymn.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped His beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless Infant there
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and Heav’n
Is born today for you
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

 

Imagining baby Jesus wrapped in a rabbit fur, with chiefs from distant tribes kneeling to offer fox and beaver pelts, helps remind me that people throughout the world may have a different image in their minds than the one I’m used to. Which gives me all the segue I need to remind you of the beautiful song “Some Children See Him” from last year’s collection of Christmas music (it’s the second video in the post).

 

I hope this music will help you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

*The Huron carol was composed in 1643 by a Christian missionary, Jean de Br├ębeuf, in the Native American language of the Huron people, Wyandot. Jesse Edgar Middleton translated it into English. Gitchi Manitou as a name for God is traditional Algonquian, and doesn’t appear in the Wyandot original.

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