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Hodie Christus Natus Est

December 16, 2011
by thenestinggame

Last week many of you told me you tuned into the She & Him Christmas album after seeing my kicky vintage moodboard. So, I decided to carry the album+moodboard theme one step further and feature one of my very favorite holiday soundtracks of all time.

*Warning: Completely Self-Indulgent Trip Down Memory Lane Ahead*

Singing in choirs was a hugely important part of my life for the entirety of high school and college. Some of my very best friends in the whole wide world are those who share the dorky love of music and song. In college, I had the privilege of being part of the Rhodes College Singers under the direction of the late Tony Lee Garner. A passionate man, I saw (or maybe just envisioned) a music stand fly across the rehearsal hall a time or two, but the experience of singing under his direction has to rank up there as some of the most wonderful times I had at Rhodes.

Every fall semester, in addition to the Singers’ Christmas choral program at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we had the opportunity to perform Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Christmas cantata Hodie (Latin for “This Day,” pronounced HO-dee-ay) with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Rhodes Chorale (basically a group of Memphis-area Rhodes friends and alums) and a children’s choir. This Wiki article explains the history of the piece better than I ever could, but essentially it is a modern (1950s) choral + orchestral composition with lyrics based on the Bible and poetry.

The children’s choir sings most of the biblical narration, and to this day I cannot go to Christmas mass without hearing them singing the readings in my head. There are three solists, the soprano representing Mary, the tenor representing the Angel and the baritone representing the Shepherd.

The music is vibrant and quick and majestic and I cannot wait until Thanksgiving is over every year so I can blast it non-stop.

This year I have tuned it in on Spotify. And so can you. Search for “Vaughn Williams Hodie” and click on the Hodie album. Start with movement I: Prologue. Yeah, it’s not Zooey Deschanel. It’s not Bing Crosby. And it sure ain’t Mariah Carey. But it’s grand and gorgeous and encompasses so much of what the season is all about: from the simple, sweet, personal moments to the grand, gaudy displays. It’s all in there.

There is a particularly awesome moment at the XIV moment. The first time all the soloists and chorus sing together is The March of the Three Kings. You know the minor key of “We Three Kings of Orient Are”? And how it’s kind of mysterious and sad and hopeful? Well The March is that times 1000. Lots of drum. Lots of bass. Lots of cymbals. Goosebumps, I tell ya.


There are two acapella songs that the chorus sings. The second one is called “No Sad Thought” and it’s a wish for the baby Jesus to sleep and dream peacefully all the while knowing the fate that one day awaits him.

The final movement is full of strange lyrics that make little sense, but the music tells you all you need to know. Again, this is another one where everyone rises to sing together. It builds slowly, dramatically, then takes off like a freaking freight train.

And I remember, every year, when we got to the last line I would take the biggest breath ever and sing as loudly as I possibly could. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who did that.

I’m sure the fact that I sung Hodie five times (4 times in college and once as an alum), means it’s extra special to me. But, if you like grand, ornate orchestral music… and Christmas… and baby Jesus… and loud noises… and a tender story…then it might become special to you too.

Rhodes alums, do you have any Hodie memories? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 snowy / wreath /  peace / midnight / placesetting / stars / kings / bebe / sequins via / champagne

most images found via pinterest

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Martha permalink
    December 16, 2011 11:50 am

    YES! The power and joy and energy and delight in choral music for both the singer and the listener-how fortunate are we who have been part of such a glorious endeavor. It was lovely to read about your experience and re-live my own similar memories. Merry Christmas!

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      December 20, 2011 11:46 am

      Thank you, Martha! Aren’t those dorky memories the best! I didn’t realize how lucky I was then.

  2. Elaine Smart permalink
    December 16, 2011 2:37 pm

    Am impressed that you sang with the Rhodes Chorale and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
    We go every December to Eckerd Performing Arts Center to hear the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and the Florida Orchestra – Christmas at the Pops.

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      December 20, 2011 11:46 am

      I love those Pops concerts. We went 2 years ago here in Atlanta. Sad we missed it this year—I don’t know where December went!

  3. December 20, 2011 6:26 pm

    Haven’t listened to Hodie… but your post got me to Spotify, which is awesome. Made the music for our holiday gathering great. Thanks!


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