For nearly the past thirty years our family has had a custom of gathering together on Christmas Eve and singing a new carol. Sometimes the carols were new tunes to existing texts (as with the carol “Sanders”, a setting of John Donne’s poem “Nativity”) but sometimes Joseph Bottum provided me with a new poem as well (“See these spires” set to the tune “Blackstone”). Sometimes the carols were finished weeks before Christmas, sometimes on Christmas Eve itself. But we always had a new carol and the tune was named after one of my daughters, or a friend.
This year we’re unusually prepared. I wrote a new tune in late October, sent it off to Bottum and he sent back a text hours later. Although he lived a long time in New York City, Joseph now lives with his wife and daughter paradise, otherwise known as South Dakota’s Black Hills, and snow is much on his mind, although the memories of New York streets lingers there too, two things which wind their way through his charming lyrics.
This year’s tune is named for Raphael Bundage. Dr. Bundage has lead MTSU’s choral music for almost thirty years. He is a dear friend and widely admired musician and it is an honor to dedicate the carol to him. And we got to premiere the carol before MTSU’s annual “Messiah” performance with Dr. Bundage conducting the MTSU Schola Cantorum and the Middle Tennessee Choral Society (Colin Peterson is the tenor soloist). And it’s our Christmas gift to you, from Joseph Bottum and all of us at Refinersfire. “Christ is in the manager; Christmas fills the world.” Yes, indeed.
PS-And while your listening to Bottom’s lyrics, his “Frankincense, Gold, & Myrrh” (published the year) and “Wise Guy: A Christmas Tale” (both on Kindle and as an audible book). They are splendid!