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O Holy Night
by Dr. Brad Black 
12/11/11
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O Holy Night


“O Holy Night” is a French carol written by an almost unknown man, Cappeau de Roquemaure. He was a wine missionaire for a small town in France. He was most known for his poetry, but had poor church attendance. That is why it surprised everyone that the local priest asked him to write a poem for the Christmas Mass.

Cappeau was much honored to be asked to write a poem for the church and he wanted to do his best. He wanted to make sure it was religious and focused on the Christmas story. He studied Luke’s account of the Nativity story. On one of his trips to Paris to order wine, he imaged what it would be like to be a witness of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem so many years ago. By the time he had reached Paris, he had the poem finished.

He was so moved by the poem that he knew it needed to be more than just a poem. Therefore, he got a friend, Adolph Charles Adams a master musician, to write the score. Adolph was a Jew and was quite moved by the lyrics of the birth of Christ and felt complied to write the music for this holiday that he did not celebrate. He worked quickly and the priest was quite pleased. The song was performed three weeks later for the Christmas Mass. The carol was a huge success and quickly a staple of Christmas masses all over France. It was later found out that Adams was a Jew and Cappeau had poor church attendance due to his socialistic view. The Catholic Church banned the carol from being sung in service again.

Not until John Sullivan Dwight found the coral again in French and translated into English was it sang again. John was trained at Harvard Divinity School and even took a job as minister in Cambridge, Ma. However, John had one major problem; he started to get physically sick during every sermon. The panic attacks became worse to the point that he could not even go out into public. Therefore, John took to writing and publishing music. It was during his studies is when he found “O Holy Night”

One final item of note, in 1906 Reginald Fessenden the former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, used a new generator and microphone and broadcast the first human voice over the air waves (at this time the radios were used to send different codes of dot and dashes). He read the Luke version of the Nativity then he picked up the his violin and played “O Holy Night” Thus the first song ever played on the radio was “O Holy Night”





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