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athgarvan

SEASONAL CLASSICS

Why were so many Christmas Season classics written by Jews?

Well, Jews, I suppose, always had a great affinity for music: King David had his harp, Hebrew slaves sang songs marching out of Egypt, and the Shofar was always big with them. During the Middle Ages and the early modern period, music was one of the relatively few fields in which European Jews could make a living. They were prohibited from working in many professions for about a thousand years and they could not even own land in most Christian countries during that period. But they could work as travelling musicians. They even enjoyed a certain degree of admiration for their skill among the non-Jewish population. Jews with musical talent, of course, would also be cantors in synagogues or composers of Jewish religious music but were banned from the Court and wealthy scene.

Then, about1880s, millions of European Jews, started pouring into America. A huge market for popular music was developing there at the time and Jews crashed into the popular music scene. They turned out holiday songs because holidays were recurring and made good commercial sense. A hit Christmas song made money every year.

“Winter Wonderland” Richard Smith & Felix Bernard

“The Christmas Song” Mel Tomé & Robert Wells

“Let it Snow, Let it Snow” Sammy Caln & Jule Styne

“White Christmas” Irving Berlin

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Johnny Marks

“It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year” Edmund Pola & George Wyle

“Silver Bells” Jay Livingstone & Ray Evans

“I’ll be Home for Christmas” Walter Kent & Buck Ram

“Frosty the Snowman” Steve Nelson & Walter Rollins

Comments

This time of year I like to post old and traditional Christmas songs as well as more thoughtful modern ones as you know, but I also like to remind myself that Jewish composers were able to take from Christian worship music and make it their own. That's when I turn to the 17th century Jewish baroque composer Salamone Rossi, known as 'Il Ebreo'.

What a beautiful prayer for this time of year. I have not heard it before. Thank you. For those who would like to hear it sung in English please select:
http://www.songlyrics.com/paul-wilbur/baruch-haba-lyrics/
Thanks for the translation! I know a tiny amount of Yiddish, but no Hebrew at all.