Funny to think that the “little town of Bethlehem” really exists. Not so funny that far from being a place for peace and joy – all that Xmas stuff – it has regularly been a battleground, a site for the ongoing violence in the Middle East:
The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan annexed the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority. (via Wikipedia.)
Bethlehem’s main source of income is tourism – especially during the Christmas season, with Christians from all over the world following in the footsteps of the Three Wise Men. The carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by one of these pilgrims – an Anglican (Episcopal) priest from Philadelphia, after his visit to Bethlehem in 1865.
It’s definitely an old chestnut, but it’s been burnished into various new shiny forms by a range of musicians over the years:
Belle and Sebastian, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – from [Christmas Peel Session, 12-18-02]
And of course many of the “usual suspects” for Christmas music have covered it, like
The old fashioned versions are usually the ones I prefer – like the Bing Crosby, or one of the many versions by a big choir – but I do like the Sarah McLachlan. In general, a little bit of her – with that plaintive whine – goes a long way, but this is one of the nicer covers on her Christmas album, Wintersong.
Truthfully, though, this carol doesn’t do all that much for me – not listening to it like this. Sung live by a caroling troupe or a choir, at night, with Christmas lights twinkling, or in a church with organ accompaniment – well, that’s another story. And it’s another one of those that most carolers can manage – that I can manage when I am out caroling..
- Bethlehem – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- BBC – Birmingham – Faith – O little town of Bethlehem
- O Little Town of Bethlehem – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Sarah McLachlan, Wintersong – Amazon.com
- Sarah McLachlan Wintersong – Download from rapidshare.com
- Sarah McLachlan – Wintersong (download torrent) – TPB