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#AMerryViolinChristmas – Away in a Manger

Time for our third video in the #AMerryViolinChristmas compilation – a collection of Christmas Carols arranged for beginner violin and Piano. If you haven’t yet, make sure you grab your copy today! Today, we’re learning “Away in a Manger”, so watch the video above and have a go. In addition, discover some more about the history of this great carol below.

About Away in A Manger

Having first been published in the late nineteenth century, Away in a Manger has gone on to become one of the most popular Christmas carols in the English speaking world. It is thought to be American in origin, despite having originally been attributed to Martin Luther.

While there are many versions of the lyrics, with variants on almost every line, a version by William Kirkpatrick published in 1895 has now developed into being the standard version that is most well known.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

Taken from “Around the World with Christmas: A Christmas Exercise”, by E.E. Hewitt, John R. Sweeney, and William J. Kirkpatrick (1895)

Two wonderful melodies

Finally, There are two well-known versions of this melody. Firstly, James R Murray’s version known as “Mueller” is most popular in America. And secondly, William J. Kirkpatrick’s version known as “Cradle Song” which is most popular in Britain. In this video, I am looking at Kirkpatrick’s “Cradle Song”

Have a Merry Violin Christmas

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Violin Christmas collection, and that you’ve spread some joy using these arrangements. Finally, if you haven’t seen them yet, check out the other videos in the #AMerryViolinChristmas collection – this was the third one I produced this year, along with Joy to the World and Silent Night.

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Ding Dong! Merrily on High

Ding Dong Merrily on High is a Christmas Carol, and in this picture is a book with the words "A Christmas Carol" on it, as well as assorted christmas decorations.

An exciting arrangement of “Ding Dong Merrily on High” that will challenge the choir whilst still providing interest and variety for all parts.

Arranged for SATB Choir (without accompaniment) by Ben Clapton, each part takes the melody at some stage. As such all parts are actively challenging and highlighted throughout the performance.

Initially arranged in 5/4, the verse has a sort of Mission:Impossible, uneven waltz feel to it. Then in the chorus, it changes to 7/8 which brings the waltz feel into the other direction. In closing, there is a standard arrangement of the verse and chorus in 4/4, which utilises rich harmonies and intersecting parts that brings to life the “evetime song” that exclaims “Hosanna in Excelsis!” 

All parts have opportunities to take the melody. The altos take the first verse, and the sopranos take on the melisma in the chorus. The Second verse sees the tenors take on the melody, while the sopranos once again take on the melismatic chorus, being joined by the altos in a descending line that brings out the waltz falling over itself feel. Finally, in the third verse in 4/4, the Basses take on the melody with the upper parts providing the rich harmonies, with the final choruses passed between the female and male voices.

About Ding Dong Merrily on High

The well-known melody first appeared as a French secular dance known as “Branle de l’Official” in a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot. George Ratcliffe Woodward later penned the English lyrics to “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and was first published in 1924. Then Charles Wood added a harmonisation to the French Melody. While the carol is in English, it is particularly noted for the refrain which is in Latin, in which the vowel sound “o” of Gloria is extended to a 33 syllable long lyric through a lengthy melismatic melodic sequence.

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

(Glory! Hosanna in the highest!)

Buy Ding Dong! Merrily on High at Sheet Music Press

“Ding Dong!” SATB Arrangement (Unaccompanied) of Ding Dong Merrily on High. List price: $9.99.

More Arrangements and Compositions by Ben Clapton

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#AMerryViolinChristmas – Joy to the World

It’s Christmas time! Time for Christmas Carols!
The problem is that many Christmas Carols are written in keys that aren’t friendly for the violin, especially for the beginner violinist, who initially learns notes in G, D and A major, whilst carols are often written in F, Eb and Bb major.

So I’ve arranged ten favourite carols for beginner violin, and made it available for free on my website – and I’m going to teach you how to play them. Today, we’re learning “Joy to the World”.

If you’re learning these, I encourage you to share your progress – tag your video with #AMerryViolinChristmas and I’ll watch and comment some encouragement for you.

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Whose Kingdom?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Whose Kingdom?, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday November 26, 2017. The Reading was John 18:1-19:42.

Handel’s Messiah

On Friday April 13, 1742, some 275 years ago, Handel’s Messiah oratorio was first performed in Dublin, Ireland. This was a performance arranged by Handel in order to benefit three charities, one of which was Prisoners’ debt relief. The concert raised 400 pounds, giving each charity 127 pounds which allowed 142 prisoners to be released of their debts. Continue reading Whose Kingdom?

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I don’t need your gifts, only your presence

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, I don’t need your gifts, only your presence, was given at The Rochester and Elmore District Health Service Hostel and nursing Home’s Ecumenical Christmas Service on Tuesday 13 December, 2016. The Reading was Matthew 2:1-12.

What are the best Christmas gifts you’ve received?

I wonder what the best Christmas gift you ever received was? Can you think of any memorable ones?

To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember many Christmas gifts. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly appreciative of everything that I’ve been given. But my memory is a bit hazy on whether I received it as a gift at Christmas, my birthday, or whether I bought it for myself.

But that’s not to say I’m not excited to see my Christmas gifts for this year. Already, I have one sitting under the tree – which I can only guess from the envelope is a couple of tickets to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

We can lose focus on the real meaning of Christmas

Now don’t get me wrong, but I find that there can be too much of an emphasis on gift giving, or more so, gift receiving, at Christmas time. I’m sure you have probably been asked before what the best present you’ve received is, but has anyone ever asked you what the best present you ever gave was? Even at Christmas time, we focus more on receiving than giving.

If we’re not careful, we can lose touch with what the real message of Christmas is. When we focus more on the gifts, we lose touch with the one who is the reason we give.

Seek out the Presence of Christ

I want to focus on the story of the Magi that we’ve just heard. The magi come, having followed the star and recognising that this particular star meant the birth of the King of the Jews. Now, we don’t know how they knew what that meant, but all the same, having recognised the meaning, they set out and sought to find this King of the Jews, in order to pay him homage.

But, having set out, and followed the star for so long, they ended up in Jerusalem, which if you were expecting a King to be born, it would make sense that it would be in the capital city. So the magi started asking around, and word comes to Herod – the so-called “King” – although he gave himself that title, as he was actually in his role through the authority of the Romans. When Herod heard that there was an actual King somewhere he was quite rightly nervous, and set his Chief Priests and scribes to search the scriptures to see where this child was to be born.

And so it was that it was discovered that in Bethlehem, a tiny town about 6km from Jerusalem, this “King of the Jews” was to be born. So Herod instructs them to search for the child, and report back to him so he may go and worship as well.

But here we see the difference of intentions. The magi had travelled far to come and pay homage – to worship this child, to be in his presence. They recognised that this child was someone special, and was worth them making the long trek to find him. On the other hand, Herod wanted only to hold onto his power – the power that was gifted to him by the Romans, and that he wanted to hang onto at any cost.

Herod was only thinking of his gift. The magi only wanted His – that is, Christ’s – presence.

We can find the true present

We know that when the magi came, they gave gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh – gifts known for being the most costly of the day, but gifts also found in the prophecies, in Isaiah 60, and the Song of Solomon. But more importantly, before they gave those gifts, they “knelt down and paid him homage.”

For the magi, being in the presence of Christ was more important than the giving of any gifts that they had brought.

In the same way, we need to make sure that we find the true present this Christmas – that is, to be in the Presence of Christ.

We don’t want to get distracted by the commercialisation of Christmas. We don’t want to get distracted by whether we give the best gifts, or receive more gifts than we did last year. We don’t want to get distracted by the power that might give us over another person.

We don’t need gifts. We only want your presence – the presence of Jesus Christ.

We don’t need gifts, we just want your presence.

This Christmas, I hope you will seek out the presence of Christ in your life. If you haven’t asked Christ into your life, there’s never a better time than right now, to ask Christ to be with you, and to sit in his presence. And if you have been following Christ for a long time, then there’s never a better time than at Christmas to be reminded of being in the presence of Christ, and how spending that time can transform our lives.

We don’t need gifts, we just want your presence.

The inspiration for the title of this message came from Phil Laeger‘s Christmas album, The Light Where It Leads You, (which is no longer available). Please check out some of Phil’s other releases and support the wonderful message that he brings through his music.

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Prince of Peace

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Prince of Peace, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 21 December, 2014, for our Christmas with the Salvos Carols service. The Reading was Isaiah 9:2-7

I chose the passage for today a few weeks ago. The theme for this Sunday was chosen a few weeks earlier than that. And as I sat down on Tuesday morning, in a coffee shop just down the road, only 24 hours after a siege in another coffee shop in Sydney had started, which ended up costing three people their lives, and changed the lives of countless more, I had to wonder how I could possibly preach on peace, when our peaceful existence has been so shockingly changed.

We live in a world characterised by it’s non-peacefulness

The unfortunate reality is that we live in a world that is characterised by it’s non-peacefulness. Wikipedia currently lists 13 Wars and conflicts currently happening around the world. So far, in 2014, that has resulted in at least 113,804 deaths. Over 100,000 deaths in this year alone. That is almost as many as the average number of deaths per year during the Vietnam War. If you add in those classed as minor skirmishes and conflicts, you have 44 Wars, Conflicts and skirmishes, with pushes it up over 118 thousand deaths in this year alone. Some of this conflicts have been going on since 1948 – the cumulative fatalities caused by these active skirmishes tops 6.5 million. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported that in 2013, we had 51.2 million forcibly discplaced people. This is the highest on record. During 2013, conflict and persecution forced an average of 32,200 individuals per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere – up from 23,400 in 2012 and 14,200 in 2011.

But it’s not just armed conflicts that we have to worry about. Life seems to get busier and busier. That business leads to stress, which means that we can’t perform at our best, and can lead to mental and physical health problems. Elsewhere in our society, people are dealing with poverty, drugs, violence, domestic violence and more. All of these things chip away at that ideal, peacefilled existence. Continue reading Prince of Peace

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The gifts that we bring to offer our King

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The gifts that we bring to offer our king, was given at the Church of Christ Wembley Downs on Sunday 6 January, 2013. The Bible reading was Matthew 2:1-12.

Annabelle in Wrapping PaperToday is the last day of our Christmas season. I hope it’s been a good season for you. It’s been a very special season for me, as it has been Annabelle’s first Christmas, and it was very special to be able to spend it here at home. But that presented itself with some other challenges. Everyone wanted to give Annabelle lots of presents, but we had to remember that everything that we received, we had to make sure that we could fit it all in our suitcases to take back to Melbourne. Thankfully we didn’t receive many large presents, but we’re still hoping that we’ll come in under our baggage allowance. Continue reading The gifts that we bring to offer our King