Soundtrack Of A Photograph, The Christmas Editions, Part 4

Song-O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Artist-Bruce Cockburn

As I sit here and write this Christmas blog for the fourth day straight day I think I need to put out a few warnings. The first is that the photo and theme for today is “light” and by no means will this be the last reference to it. Especially at this time of year when Christmas lights of all types are in abundance. The second is that this will not be the only appearance by this particular singer in this series of blogs. For you see, Bruce Cockburn’s 1993 album ‘Christmas’ is quite simply my favorite Christmas album of all time. Nothing before or since has moved me with the Christmas spirit more than this album. When I am prepared to play my own Christmas music, as opposed to what one hears in department stores and TV ads it is always the first album I play. It is also one I play from start to finish every time. Every year I seem to find more and more people who have come across it and love it as much as I do.

I think the reason why is because it is so natural, and organic sounding. By the time I am done with this Christmas series and do some more of his songs I hope you will feel the same way and get your own copy. One of the things I liked about it from the first time I heard it is that in the notes to the album, Bruce mentions how he felt Christmas songs are just songs like any other songs. We get so accustomed to them being played the same way, with the same arrangements that they often become background noise. There is only so many things one can do with “Jingle Bells” for example. What Bruce wanted to do with his album was nudge them along in one direction or another to change them up, if only ever so slightly. So it is with his version of O Little Town Of Bethlehem, with its Dylan-esque guitar strum and harmonica. Where he changes it up a little is in the cadence of his singing. It does not quite follow the typical version of the song, yet remains close to it. Here it is to listen to-

Setting aside the religious side to this song, I have long admired the notion of light portrayed in the song. Phillips Brooks who wrote the song in 1868 was said to have been inspired upon seeing Bethlehem from afar, and no doubt lights, be they from town or from the stars played a part in that.

Here is a thorough summary of the song I found-

As I said at the start, lights are such a key element to Christmas. Last year, while looking at a random grouping of trees in front of some shops I peered up with my camera and snapped this photo. I posted it on my Facebook page and was slightly amused at how many people thought it was stars in the sky. Of course when viewed closer it is actually lights wrapped around a tree, but I liked the deception, and I liked the parallel of the lights of Christmas together with the lights from the stars, and all the meanings and interpretations and beliefs that arise because of them. I realized that lights may be the key for all of us at Christmas one way or another.



O Little Town Of Bethlehem-Written By Phillips Brooks. Music by Lewis Henry Redner

All photographs by Robert P Doyle All images in this blog are available in limited supply for purchase as unframed prints. Sizes may vary. Contact via for details.

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