"The Songs We Sang That Night", a Christmas Song by Daniel Carter
What If We Were the Angels Singing on Christmas Night?
A friend and I were talking about Christmas music, and he posed the question of what if we were the angels that sang on Christmas night? It intrigued me. I wondered what that scene might look like, what it might feel like. I wrote the words for the new song Christmas season of 1979 and wrote a tune for the song shortly after. The song was performed by a friend at a Christmas party. The thing I remember most about that evening was that my friend, Kelli Allred and I never rehearsed before we performed. We spoke briefly on the phone and agreed on what to perform, then met at the party. As we were walking to the piano together she whispered, "Hang on to your hat and try to follow." I chuckled and she returned with, "I'm not kidding." Intimidated, I tried my best to pay attention to her interpretation. She delivered a heartfelt-felt gift to all of us. I will never forget it.
Despite her wonderful interpretation, I found the music I composed for that setting a little too predictable. Finally several years later, I wrote new music for the words and was satisfied. I think the time for Kelli and I to do an encore performance is nigh. A thirty-year gap seems a bit too long.
Since then, I considered using the new setting in a number of other larger projects such as Christmas cantatas and even for the stage musical version of "Artaban, the Other Wise Man, the Musical." However, ultimately, the message of this Christmas piece seemed to stand well enough on its own as in intimate, personal revery of possibility on the night Christ was born, so including it in some larger project didn't seem necessary. As a result, I've decided to leave it as it is to be enjoyed as a "possibility" and a song to "wonder if it might be so".
Another issue that every present-day composer/arranger has is the challenge of creating something from a new or fresh perspective. Out of all the probable millions of Christmas songs and compositions out there from the past 20 centuries, you can begin to wonder if you have anything new or fresh to add to the monumental collection. Imagining a new scene or a new idea from the age-old Christmas story is not only exciting at times but extremely creative. The idea that every human being who has ever lived or will live can have a unique or different perspective on just one event is truly amazing. But it's that unique variation of thought and imagination that helps composers like me arrive at what we hope is a unique perspective that might touch and gather in close the listeners who are eager.
Published by Neil A. Kjos Music
Although arranged as a four-part choral piece, most of the arrangement is sung in two parts, between women's and men's voices. The arrangement is easy to learn and enjoyable to perform and evokes warm feelings imagining what it might be like to witness the birth of Christ as a member of the angelic choirs. The accompaniment is not difficult and can be performed well by an intermediate level pianist.
Sheet music is available through all major sheet music retailers. If it is not in stock, you can request it and they can special order it for you. Order online conveniently at Day Murray Music.
The Words to the Song
No jeweled crown upon His head,
No velvet clothes were worn,
But swadd'ling carefully dressed the King
Whose crown would be of thorn.
The stable and the manger bed
Would do for this sweet, newborn King of Kings.
For whom else would a new star shine
And hosts of angels sing?
"Hosanna to his name!" sang angels dressed in white.
"Good will toward all men!" we shouted with delight.
"For unto you is born," we said,
"A Savior in a manger bed—
The blessed Prince of Peace."
And I can almost hear again
The songs we sang that night
As tears of joy return once more
Recalling that sweet sight.
© 2010 Daniel Carter