My relative was the organist for the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, when in 1868, the pastor asked him to write the music for his poem from an earlier trip to the Holy Land. Here, I record the events that transpired:
Birth of a Christmas Carol
by Charles Redner
For Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner
Together as a single voice
children sing a hymn
organ and choir blend as one
O little town—it begins.
As the dulcet words emerge
a calm overflows the loft—
a song sung sparkling clear
falls upon those below so soft.
The congregation strains to hear
a Christmas card pictured thus
in words and song
by the many of us
in church this day
to celebrate the birth
of a wondrous child,
marked by a star on high
in an clear midnight sky.
Back up a time,
when pastor Phillips Brooks,
of The Church of the Holy Trinity
travelled afar to the Holy Land
to visit the sacred sites of antiquity
Overwhelmed by what he saw
in Bethlehem near the birthplace thought.
Not wanting to forget the images true
on a glorious Christmas Eve,
jotted down a poem from his view.
Returned to the city of Freedom’s birth
with the precious words tucked
safely in his pocket, for unknown reason
stored in a desk drawer deep
unaware of their eventual worth.
Three years had passed when Brooks
withdrew the scribbles of his travels
and presented to his organist for a look.
To Lewis Redner, he asked, a tune
for this rhyme, which the musician undertook.
Was a Monday when the pastor had asked—
Compose a score by Sunday, please
so the children may rehearse
a week before the Holy Day
and may sing with full-security
Redner labored hard each night
but the melody just teased.
By Friday dread sat beside him
at the organ with ease.
Saddened that he might disappoint
as the deadline loomed,
he stayed in his room, where he
kept company with unending gloom.
Then Saturday night,
“Abruptly, I’m awakened
to an angel-strain,
whispering in my ear.”
The melody given in a flash is fully taken
Redner filled in the bass ever quick
and a classic carol is born in a tock-tick.
Rehearsal followed without a wait
then sang for a first on Christmas Day,
eighteen hundred and sixty-eight.
Brooks and Redner thought their tune
a congregation gift for just this date.
Little did they think it would be heard
beyond Holy Trinity’s portal-gate.
Today sung round the world each year
to commemorate the Savior’s birth.
Their gift given to all mankind,
with many more as yet to hear,
for all the ages still to come
in country lands afar and near.
Causes Charles Redner Supports
All Down syndrome associations, Buddy Walks in LA, Tucson and Orange Country CA