Songs of the Season – Sufjan Stevens – Holy, Holy, Holy

The sisters Lily and Madeleine, whose version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” I posted yesterday also have a second “Christmas” song on their channel, a beautiful song called “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

It sounds like a traditional hymn, though I’m not familiar with it. As I read through the comments, it seems like that part was confirmed, but when someone responded that they are familiar with the song being in 4/4 rather than 3/4, I was intrigued, because as musically talented as they are, it doesn’t seem like they arrange music already written.

My suspicions were confirmed, possibly in the next comment down, when somebody answered back that they were doing a cover of Sufjan Stevens’ version of the song.

This was interesting to me because while I’ve never really gotten into Sufjan Stevens’ music, as someone who grew up in Chicago, he got a fair amount of attention for his song “Casimir Pulaski Day” because Pulaski Day is one of those Chicago things that one kind of has to experience to understand.

So, anyway, a more traditional setting of the hymn can be found with this BBC version, and technically, it really isn’t even a Christmas song, but rather a hymn for Trinity Sunday, but I supposed if Sufjan Stevens can change the timing from 4/4 to 3/4, he can put it on his massive, 5-disc Christmas album from 2006.

I think by changing it from a full choir, full orchestra, “triumphant” piece, the way he sings it, it makes for a much different feeling. To me, it feels a bit like a song on a dark winter night, and the two voices are like little candles flickering their light into the darkness. I think this is why it “fits” here for Christmas. (I told you I have a thing for Christmas melancholy!)

In addition to the “Carol of the Bells” playlist, I’ve started a general playlist of Christmas songs that will include pieces mentioned here, for anyone interested.


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