The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Go Tell It On The Mountain”

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Go Tell It On The Mountain”
December 09 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

songmusic

When something really fantastic happens, what is the first thing you want to do?
Tell someone, of course!
The spiritual, “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” does just that.

The Negro spiritual was created out of need for expression and communication. It was used by slaves to relay coded messages concerning directions for escapes without the knowledge of plantation masters. Many times these coded messages used biblical names and terms to relate their meaning. Harriet Tubman, the great conductor of the Underground Railroad, was known as General Moses. The words “seeker” and “watchman” in “Go Tell It on the Mountain” most likely refer to an escaping slave seeking freedom and the plantation overseer respectively. Another spiritual “Follow the Drinking Gourd” refers to the north star of the constellation Big Dipper as the direction to follow to find freedom in the North. The slaves could sing these songs without notice from the white plantation owners and overseers.

slaves-on-plantation

The spiritual was also a means of expression. The bondage of slavery was hard to bear. Some of the spiritual songs of the black man were centered on the biblical stories of the Hebrews (who were in slavery in Egypt) and Moses (their Deliverer). Death was viewed as an escape from this bondage, so likewise should be taken that there are few spirituals about the nativity or the birth of Jesus. It is suggested that this may be a result of the slaves’ hope in an Almighty God, a Deliverer, and an all-powerful Deity who could lead them to the promised land of freedom rather than a vulnerable infant.
Spirituals were first noted in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this time, white evangelists introduced to the imported slaves the concept of Christianity using many of the songs of the white church to teach biblical stories. The slaves, with their African roots, tempered the songs to create a new genre. The African influence of syncopation and pentatonic melodies were matched with white harmonies and lyrics to create a new and distinct concept. The songs were passed orally by generations, with each generation modifying the songs. There appears to be little written documentation of the music of the Negro until the late nineteenth century.

fisk-university

Fisk University, created after the Civil War in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee, in a former Union fort, was established for the education of emancipated slaves.

In October of 1871, the Fisk Singers were organized in an effort to raise funds for the new school, which was quickly falling into disrepair on limited funds. At first, the singers sang standard and classical selections, without much success. As former slaves or children of slaves, they were well acquainted with spirituals, cabin songs, plantation songs and Jubilee songs, which were composed for religious reasons. These songs were sung among the Singers themselves but were not shared in their concerts. After mediocre acceptance and likewise monetary offerings, the group began to include a few of these songs in their repertoire.   the-fisk-jubilee-singers

Ella Shepherd, a member of the Singers, was a group’s assistant director and a great resource for these songs of the slaves, which had been passed to her by her mother.

ella-shepherd

George Leonard White, the group’s director, took note of the response of the audience whenever a spiritual was sung. The quietness of the audience, the tears that appeared, and the applause that followed convinced him that the Negro spiritual was the Singers vehicle to fame and acceptance. At first, the members were reluctant to perform what were considered personal and intimate songs of george-leonard-whitetheir faith and their people, learned behind closed doors of slavery from parents and grandparents. At a concert held at Oberlin College in Ohio, the group included the spiritual “Steal Away.” All talking ceased and soft weeping could be heard as the ensemble, being moved to tears themselves, voiced the musical renderings of their hearts. The audience was amazed. Word spread from the congregation. Letters and telegrams were sent out from the listeners urging churches and other towns to invite the singers.

This musical triumph encouraged White to add more spirituals to the performances. He also named the singers the “Jubilee” Singers. After prayer and inspiration, he felt the singers should take their name from the Bible. In Jewish custom, in the fiftieth year, slaves were set free and debts were forgiven as documented in Leviticus 25. From then on, the group was known as the Fisk Jubilee Singers.  the-fisk-jubilee-singers

In December 1871, the group sang for the weekly prayer meeting at the Plymouth Church of Brooklyn, which included some of the most influential families in henry-ward-beecherAmerica and was pastured by the famous Henry Ward Beecher. The new repertoire was on the line. It was make or break time, both musically and financially, for the weary group. Unless a substantial offering was received here, the group would not have funds to return home to Nashville. As the rich dark tones of the students’ voices sang out, the congregation grew still. At the concert’s conclusion, Beecher jumped to his feet with $5 in his hand. He encouraged all his members to follow suit and support these students. After that night, everyone wanted to have the Jubilee Singers to perform for them.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers toured the world, singing at such venues as the White House for President Ulysses S. Grant and for Queen Victoria in England. They continued across Europe singing in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. In Scotland and Ireland, their individual and collective tales of rising from slavery were written in books that sold out to adoring fans. They found themselves performing for heads of state and dignitaries in some of the world’s most famous concert halls. However, their fame was marred with incidents of hostility against their race, especially in their own country. After performing for the President at the White House, they were thrown out of their hotel because of their race. The group raised over $150,000 for Fisk University and introduced to the world the sacred hymns and songs of their ancestors.

folk-songs-photo

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, John W. Work, Jr. and his brother Frederick J. Work, began collecting and promoting the spirituals of slavery. The song, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” was published in the Brothers’ book Folk Songs of the American Negro. In this publication, the song was arranged in anthem style with verses and refrain, making it more easily accessible to the average singer. The song gained popularity because of its energetic and enthusiastic message. It had been popularized by the Fisk Singers but was not written and arranged until it appeared in this book.

religious-folk-songsIt also appeared in Thomas Fenner’s book, Religious Folk Songs of the Negro, As Sung on the Plantations, in 1909. The song was also published in a sequel collection by the Work brothers in 1915. Son John W. Work III continued the legacy started by his father and uncle by uncovering the saving spirituals and publishing them in his book American Negro Songs and Spirituals in 1940. He traveled hundreds of miles collecting songs from former slaves, transcribing them and preserving them for future generation.

mahalia-jackson

Noted vocalist Mahalia Jackson was one of the first to record the song. She made the song famous with her rendition. Jackson was the bridge from slavery to recognition with what was termed as an African-American voice as supposed to the voice of a slave. The song, deeply rooted in the black church, is now popular in all religious venues. The song is one of proclamation, excitingly declaring the glorious Christmas story from the mountain top and even further, “over the hills and everywhere.” It is a song of hope revealed. It is a declaration prompted by the arrival of the “Deliverer” who came from heaven’s lofty realms to a lowly manger to provide redemption for a needy and desperate people. What other motivation is needed to sing from the mountains than “Jesus Christ is born!”?
In 2004, William Studwell, noted musicologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on Christmas carols, named the spiritual “Carol of the Year” for 2004.

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
When I was a seeker
I sought both night and day;
I ask the Lord to help me
And He show me the way.
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall,
And if I am a Christian
I am the least of all.
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
Source: “Songs of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce
(Copyright 2008)

By Prophecy in the News| December 9th, 2017|Tags: Carol, Christmas, Jesus Christ, Mountain, Negro Spiritual, Slavery

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Christmas at MacPherson

Our Daily Bread

Read: Luke 1:68–75 | Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 47–48; 1 John 3  Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68
About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer.
Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news!
The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.
On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others.
Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming.

The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.
By Poh Fang Chia | See Other Authors

INSIGHT
One of the great themes of Luke’s gospel record is that it continually affirms that the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection is for everyone—not just for Israel. Today’s devotional declares that Christ’s coming would “cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). This important message continues later in this chapter when Simeon says that salvation is prepared in the “sight of all nations” and that Israel’s Messiah is both “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 30–32). At the conclusion of Luke’s account, the risen Christ tells the two disciples on the Emmaus road that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). This message was not intended for Israel alone, nor are we to keep it to ourselves. The entire world is the object of God’s love.
For more on sharing your faith, see the Discovery Series booklet Truth with Love: Sharing the Story of Jesus.
Bill Crowder

Our Daily Bread Topics: Christ Jesus Birth Savior & Messiah
Tags: Christmas, hope, Jesus’ birth, joy

 

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “JOY TO THE WORLD!”

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “JOY TO THE WORLD!”
December 02 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

“Joy to the World”

One of the most famous of all Christmas Carols, “Joy to the World,” was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and Lowell Mason (1792-1872). The text written by Watts is considered to be one of the most joyous Christmas carols ever written. It is joyous not in the sense of amusement, but in the serious comprehension of what Christ’s nativity means to all men. Isaac Watts has been called the father of English hymnody and the bard (poet) of Southhampton. Watts is often compared to Charles Wesley for his talent as a hymnist and his contributions to hymnody.joy-3
Isaac Watts was the oldest of nine children of a Southampton clothier. His father was a Nonconformist, which means he would not accept the established Church of England.

joy-4-watt-birthplaceWhen Isaac was born in 1674, his father was in jail for his approval of Nonconformist thought. Although young Isaac had a great deal of respect for his father’s convictions, he often thought of his mother’s days of nursing her children at the entrance to the jail. The boy Isaac showed his brilliance at a very young age. He learned Latin by age four, Greek at age nine, French at eleven, and Hebrew at thirteen. Many of the well-to-do citizens offered to educate him at Oxford or Cambridge, which would have prepared him for the Anglican ministry. Isaac would have none of it and at age sixteen traveled to London to continue his education at a prominent Nonconformist academy. After graduation in 1694, he spent two years at home where he began his hymn writing.
He became the assistant pastor of one of the city’s leading Nonconformist churches, London’s Mark Lane Independent Church, in 1699. He became the head pastor in 1702. Only one year into his ministry, he began to show symptoms of a psychiatric sickness, an illness that he would have to deal with the rest of his life. Samuel Price came to help Isaac in 1703 and became co-pastor in 1713. His illness continued but his congregation did not want to part with the man who had become very well-known and loved much. He was probably the most celebrated writer of his time. The “Horoe Lyricae” (1706) is what gave him notoriety as a poet, buy it was his hymns that distinguished him. His poetry brought forth the spiritual passion that made hymn singing a deep religious experience. He wrote about sixty theological and philosophical books and about 700 hymns.

joy-6-when-i-survey-the-wondrous-crossHis most popular hymns are “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” and “Joy to the World!” Matthew Arnold, a nineteenth-century author, said, “’When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ is the best hymn in the English language.” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” has been given the title of England’s second national anthem and “Joy to the World” stands at the top of Christmas hymns.
Watts once criticized hymn singing in church when he said, “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” German Lutherans had been singing hymns for a hundred years. John Calvin wanted his supporters to sing only metrical psalms; English Protestants had followed Calvin’s command. However, young Watts had been complaining about the hymn singing in church since he was eighteen years old. His father grew weary of the complaining and told him, “if you don’t like the hymns we sing then write better ones.” At this point, Isaac shared his hymn “Behold the Glories of the Lamb,” based upon Revelation 5:6-10, with his father:

joy-7-behold-the-glories

Behold the glories of the Lamb, Amidst His Father’s throne;
Prepare new honors for His Name, And Songs as yet unknown.

Behold the glories of the Lamb, Amidst His Father’s throne;
Prepare new honors for His Name, And Songs as yet unknown.
The next Sunday morning his father shared the hymn with the church. They liked it so much that Isaac was asked to write another. The legacy was begun and so continued the request for the next 222 Sundays. Watts did not snub the metrical hymns – he just wanted them to be filled with more enthusiasm. Samuel Johnson said, “Watts was the first who taught the Dissenters (Nonconformists) to write and speak like other men, by showing them that elegance might consist with piety.”

joy-8-hymns-and-spiritual-songsIn 1705, Watts published his first volume of original hymns and sacred poems. His next hymnal was Hymns and Spiritual Songs and was published in 1707. Many of the Dissenters did not approve of the hymnal. They believed only Psalms and not hymns should be sung in church. This led Watts to adapt the Psalms to Christian worship services. It was called The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. It was his goal to give the Psalms a New Testament meaning and mode. Watts clarified his method with these words “Where the Psalmist describes religion by the fear of God, I have often joined faith and love to it. Where he speaks of the pardon of sin through the mercies of God, I have added the merits of a Savior. Where he talks of sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God…Where he promises abundance of wealth, honor, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament.”
In the early eighteenth century, Isaac Watts wrote his greatest Christmas hymn “Joy to the World,” a paraphrase of the verse taken from Psalm 98: 4, 8-9 (KJV):

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth;
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be
joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to
judge the earth, with righteousness shall He judge
the world, and the people with equity.

joy-9-make-a-joyful

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth;
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be
joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to
judge the earth, with righteousness shall He judge
the world, and the people with equity.

The first stanza proclaims “the Lord is come,” but this is the only verse that is linked with Christmas and the Nativity. The rest of the verses could be sung at anytime of the year. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and the manger are not mentioned in the hymn, but who could ever say this carol is not one of the greatest carols we have today?

joy-5-abney-homeWith Watts’ health failing, he moved to the estate of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas and Lady Abney, to recuperate. His plans were to stay only a few weeks but spent the next thirty-six years as a guest there.

While he was staying at the Abney estate, he dedicated Divine and Moral Songs for Children (1715) to their children. In 1739, he suffered a stroke, which left him all but bedridden during his final years.
joy-10-divine-andIt is interesting to note that Watts never married. His sickness and unpleasant appearance caused his personal life to suffer. He was five feet tall, pale, skinny, and he had an oversized head. All of the pictures of him show him in a large gown with large folds. This is probably an effort by the artists to downplay his less than pleasing appearance. Elizabeth Singer, an avid reader of his book Hymns and Spiritual Songs thought Isaac Watts was her soulmate even though she only knew him through his writings. A meeting was arranged. When she saw his appearance, she refused his marriage proposal. This was as close as he ever came to being married.
When Isaac Watts was dying he said, “I am just waiting to see what God will do with me; it is good to say, what, when, and where God pleases. The business of a Christian is to do the will of God. If God should raise me up again, and use me to save a soul, that will be worth living for. If He has no more service for me, I can say, through grace, I am ready; I could without alarm if God please, lay back my head on my pillow and die this afternoon or night. My sins are all pardoned through the blood of Christ.”

joy-11-lowell-masonLowell Mason, composer of “Joy to the World, “was born and raised in Medfield, Massachusetts. As an adult, he worked in a dry goods store and a bank in Savannah, Georgia. His strong interest in music led him to study with Frederick L. Abel and write his own pieces. Later, as music leader at the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, he led the church to set up the first Sunday School for Afro-American children in the United States.
Mason wanted to publish a hymnal using European classical tunes, including those of composers Haydn and Mozart. After many inquiries with publishers, his hymnal was printed in 1822 by the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. It was a big success. Mason played a large part in the development of American church music, composing over 1,600 hymns. He introduced music into American public schools and was the first noted music educator in the United States.
Mason wanted the European influence of music to continue in America. Many opposed this philosophy because much was already being done as purely American music. This indigenous American music can be seen in the Sacred Harp Singing Schools and the works of William Billings.

joy-12-fifth-avenueIn the last part of his life, he was the music director of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Here he changed American church music from professional choirs and orchestras to congregational singing and organ music.
In 1839, Lowell Mason composed a tune that is forever linked with Watt’s “Joy to the World.” Mason wrote on the manuscript “from Handel.”
Apparently, he was referring to the joy-13-joy-to-thefirst four notes of “Lift Up Your Heads” from Handel’s Messiah and the middle section of the carol (“and heaven and nature sing”), which can also be located in Messiah in the introduction of “Comfort Ye My People.”
These two men, Isaac Watts and Lowell Mason, lived one hundred years apart. They were united, however, as both wanted congregational hymn singing to be an integral part of Christian worship. Both of their purposes were successful and today we have the most joyous Christmas carol ever written.

joy-2Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The Glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.
Source: “Songs of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce (Copyright 2008)

2015 Second Orlando Prophecy Summit, Part 51

Jeff Swanson interviewed by Doug Hagmann and Joe Hagmann

Jeff Swanson has a website planbible.com It is his life work that produced a chronological Bible that is in order verse by verse.  It is the only one of its kind.

Where are we in the prophetical time line?  Jeff believes the signs at the end times will intensify and occur in rapid order within a relatively brief period of time.

Are we seeing prophecy fulfilled everyday in the headlines?  Yes.  They are not single events, but merging patterns and seasons.  The Middle East is falling together.  Nations are becoming antisemitic and standing against Israel.  Genesis 12:3  “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee.”  When the United States went against Israel, the Lord allowed us to be punished in the exact same amount through Hurricane Katrina.

There are 800 prophecies/verses that have been fulfilled in the Bible.  There are 2,500 prophecies/verses yet to be fulfilled.

Jeff Swanson’s studies of the Bible and his expertise in mathematics have enabled him to date key Biblical events.  Consider the following:

Using the Julian, Gregorian and Jewish calendars, Jeff Swanson completed 66 calculations and arrived at a creation date of 3960 B.C.  Jeff agreed with the famous Archbishop James Ussher (author of Annals of the World) on all but two calculations.  They arrived at creation dates only 44 years apart.  Ussher’s date of creation is 4004 B.C.

Jeff Swanson’s other dates are:

Date of Christ’s birth: September 11, 3 B.C.  (Julian Calendar)

Christ’s Crucifixion:  April 3, 33 A.D.  (Julian Calendar

Christ’s Crucifixion:  April 1, 33 A.D.  (Gregorian Calendar)

Jeff Swanson advised Christians that the Lord has placed each of us within a particular sphere of influence.  We are to be faithful to the people who God has placed in our lives.  We are touching more people than we realize.  After we leave this earth, the Lord will use the legacy of our lives to continually touch people in a powerful way that we do not fully understand.  [This was one of the most profound statements that I ever heard in a prophecy conference.  The interviewers, Haggman and Hagmann were touched by it as well].

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Listen below to Eric Hovind and Paul Taylor interview Jeff Swanson about the same subjects discussed above: