A Christmas Cornucopia – Track Analysis by Michele Aversa

I dedicate this track by track commentary to Annie Lennox and her Pixies, all the Peeps from the land of La Lennoxa and everyone at Ultimate Eurythmics: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Love,

Michele

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“Angels from the Realms of Glory”

“Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

This 1816 English carol by poet James Montgomery is the opener for A Christmas Cornucopia: a beautiful piano and triangle introduction leads the listener through the triumphant statement of angels, evoked by Annie’s multi-tracked harmonies, backed by lively panpipes and majestic strings.

Lyrics

Angels from the realms of glory,

Wing your flight through all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story,

Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Gloria…

In Excelsis Day O.

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with man is now residing,

Yonder shines the infant Light;

Gloria…

In Excelsis Day O.

Sages, leave your contemplation,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great desire of nations,

Ye have seen His natal star;

Gloria…

In Excelsis Deo.

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”

“Glad tidings of comfort and joy”

On the second single taken from her first Christmas album (enhanced by a stunning video), Annie takes on the role of a pied piper spreading the news of Jesus’ birth, infusing this classic English carol from 1833 with an amazingly unexpected Middle East-meets-South Africa flavour, complete with tribal drums and final ululation.

Lyrics

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s powers

When we were gone astray

Glad tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

Glad tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,

This blessed Babe was born

And laid within a manger

Upon this blessed morn

The which His Mother Mary

Did nothing take in scorn

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father

A blessed Angel came;

And unto certain Shepherds

Brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem was born

The Son of God by Name.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,

“Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour

Of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan’s power and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,

All you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood

Each other now embrace;

This holy tide of Christmas

All other doth deface.

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

“See Amid the Winter’s Snow”

“Sing through all Jerusalem: Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Annie’s beloved harmonium joins the piano in setting the mood for the third track of A Christmas Cornucopia: a warm and intimate, hymn-like rendition of the carol written in 1871 by English clergyman Edward Caswall.

Lyrics

See amid the winter’s snow,

Born for us on earth below,

See the tender Lamb appears,

Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!

Sing through all Jerusalem,

Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say

What your joyful news today;

Wherefore have ye left your sheep

On the lonely mountain steep?

Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!

Sing through all Jerusalem,

Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Sacred infant, all divine,

What a tender love was thine,

Thus to come from highest bliss

Down to such a world as this.

Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!

Sing through all Jerusalem,

Christ is born in Bethlehem.

“Il Est Né, le Divin Enfant”

“Il est né! Il est né! Il est né”

A favourite from the French tradition (composed in the 19th century by Monsieur Grosjean, an organist from Lorraine), “Il Est Né, le Divin Enfant” is revived by Annie with the support of the African Children’s Choir, providing fresh backing vocals to this joyful exaltation of the Divine Child.

Lyrics

Il est ne, le divin Enfant,

Jouez, hautbois, resonnez, musettes;

Il est ne, le divin Enfant;

Chantons tous son avenement!

Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,

Nous le promettaient les Prophetes;

Depuis plus de quatre mille ans,

Nous attendions cet heureux temps.

Il est ne, le divin Enfant…

Ah! qu’ll est beau, qu’il est charmant,

Que ses graces sont parfaites!

Ah! qu’ll est beau, qu’ll est charmant,

Qu’il est doux le divin Enfant!

Il est ne, le divin Enfant…

Une etable est son logement,

Un peu de paille, sa couchette,

Une etable est son logement,

Pour un Dieu, quel abaissement!

Il est ne, le divin Enfant…

O Jesus! O Roi tout puissant!

Tout petit enfant que vous etes,

O Jesus! O Roi tout puissant!

Regnez sur nous entierement!

Il est ne, le divin Enfant…

“The First Noel”

“Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel! Born is the King of Israel!”

One of the most famous Christmas carols ever (written in England back in 1823) takes the fifth position on the Cornucopia: Annie’s ethereal vocals, multiplied in heavenly choirs, flow upon a musical texture created mostly by piano and enriched by an orchestral arrangement.

Lyrics

The First Noel, the Angels did say

Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay

In fields where they lay a keeping their sheep

On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star

Three Wise men came from country far

To seek for a King was their intent

And to follow the star wherever it went.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star

Shining in the East beyond them far

And to the earth it gave great light

And so it continued both day and night.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord

That hath made Heaven and earth of nought

And with his blood mankind has bought.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Born is the King of Israel!

“Lullay, Lullay”

“O sisters too, how may we do for to preserve this day?”

The celebratory atmosphere of A Christmas Cornucopia is eloquently shaded by this sorrowful and mysterious 16th century cradle song, also known as the Coventry Carol: Annie’s soaring and passionate voice, strengthened by sharp-edged percussions, narrates the Slaughter of the Innocents from the point of view of the many mothers which everyday struggle (often in vain) to save their children’s lives.

Lyrics

Lullay Lullay

My little tiny child

By By Lullay Lullay

Lullay lullay

My Little Tiny child

By By Lullay Lullay

O Sisters Two

How may we do

For to preserve this day?

This poor youngling

For whom we do sing

By by lullay lullay

Herod the King,

In his raging,

Charged he hath this day

His men of might,

In his own sight

All children young to slay

Then woe is me,

Poor child for thee

And ever mourn and say

For thy parting,

Not say nor sing

By by lullay lullay

“The Holly and the Ivy”

“Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the dear”

Annie and the African Children’s Choir evoke Christmas by singing the timeless story of birth and growth that ever renews itself in both nature and human race; flutes, African drums and a glockenspiel complete this idyllic carol composed during the 17th century in England.

Lyrics

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown

Of all the trees that are in the wood

The holly bears the crown

Oh the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom

As white as lily flower

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To be our sweet Saviour

Oh the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a berry

As red as any blood

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To do poor sinners good

Oh the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a prickle

As sharp as any thorn;

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas Day in the morn.

Oh the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a bark

As bitter as any gall;

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

For to redeem us all.

Oh the rising of the sun

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ

Sweet singing of the choir

The holly and the ivy

Now both are full well grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood,

The holly bears the crown.

“In the Bleak Midwinter”

“Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow”

A gentle guitar keyboard riff introduces the listener to the stillness of wintertime, when a white and freezing mantle covers everything and the heart of the believer sings praises to the newborn Jesus. On the eighth track of A Christmas Cornucopia, Annie gives new warmth (with her voice and harmonium and accordion melodies) to the poem written around 1872 by English poet Christina Rossetti.

Lyrics

In the bleak midwinter,

frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him,

nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter

a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him,

poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd,

I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man,

I would do my part;

Yet what I can give Him: give my heart.

“As Joseph Was a Walking”

“Hallelujah!”

The most ancient carol sung by Annie on the Cornucopia is the 15th century Cherry Tree Carol: following the angel singing of the forthcoming arrival of Christ on the Earth, this happy Christmas nursery rhyme, embellished by echo effects on Annie’s voice, ends up triumphantly with blissful… hallelujahs!

Lyrics

As Joseph was a-walking

He heard an Angel sing:

“This night shall be the birth time

Of Christ our Heavenly King;

He Neither shall be borned

In housen nor in hall

Nor in the place of paradise

But in an ox’s stall

Allelulah!

“He neither shall be clothed

In purple nor in pall;

But in the fair white linen

As usen babies all.

“He neither shall be rocked,

In silver nor in gold;

But in a wooden cradle

That rocks upon the mould

Allelulah!

“He neither shall be christen’d

In white wine nor in red;

But with the fair spring water,

With which we were christened.”

As Joseph was a-walking

He heard the angel sing

This night shall be the birth time

Of Christ the heavenly king

Allelulah!

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given”

The only American carol on A Christmas Cornucopia was composed by priest Phillips Brooks in the 19th century: Annie and the African Children’s Choir, accompanied gently by piano and pipe organ, sing the miracle of Nativity to Bethlehem, the small village which had the honour to host this unique event.

Lyrics

O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary

And gathered all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wondering love

O morning stars together

Proclaim the holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven.

No ear may his His coming,

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him still,

The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born to us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel

“Silent Night”

“Christ the Saviour is born”

The last carol of the Cornucopia is once more one of the most well-known of all times, written in the 19th century by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr: the tender bond between Mother and Child is celebrated by Annie’s peerless vocal performance (which in the end becomes wonderfully soulful) and amplified by a minimalistic yet regal orchestral arrangement.

Lyrics

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ, the Saviour is born

Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

“Universal Child”

“And I wish to God that kids like you could be like everyone”

The first single from A Christmas Cornucopia is also the only non-traditional song on the album: previewed on Idol Gives Back in April 2010, “Universal Child” in one way transposes in music Annie’s strong commitment to African children in need; but it’s a track about all the kids on the planet, because all of them need the same love and care to be our future.

All the income from “Universal Child” will be paid to the Annie Lennox Foundation, so if you haven’t done it already, please visit any major digital music store and download it for this Christmas… thank you.

Lyrics

How Many mountains must you face

Before you learn to climb

I’m gonna give you what it takes

My Universal Child

I’m gonna try to find a way

To keep you safe from harm

I’m gonna build a special place

A shelter from the storm

And I can see you you’re everywhere

Your portrait fills the sky

I’m gonna wrap my arms around you

My universal child

And when I look into your eyes

So innocent and pure

I see the shadows of the things

That you’ve had to endure

I see the tracks

Of every tear that ran right down your face

I see the hurt

I see the pain

I see the human race

And I can feel you

You’re everywhere

Shining like the sun

And I wish to god

That kids like you

Could be like everyone

How many tumbles

Must it take

Before you learn to fly

I’m gonna help you

Spread your wings

My Universal Child

I’m gonna help you find a way

To keep you safe from harm

We’re gonna build a special place

A shelter from the storm

I can feel you

You’re everywhere

Shining like the sun

And I wish to god

That kids like you

Could be like everyone

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