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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