Soundtrack Of A Photograph, The Christmas Editions, Part 23

Song- Suo Gan

Artist- Choir Of Kings College

Well after today there is only one more Christmas Edition of Soundtrack Of A Photograph left. As Christmas is now hours, rather than days away, I thought it was time for a song that was more substantial today. Maybe it is just me, but I seem to be able to switch my Christmas music listening around at any given moment. In other words, I can listen to The Ventures doing guitar instrumentals of ‘Frosty The Snowman’ and follow with a choral group, and then follow that up with something classic from someone like Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. So after writing these blogs about artists from folk, rock, soul, gospel and country up to this point, I thought we really needed a song from a choir today. But as you may have noticed at this point, I seldom take the easy way when it comes to writing these blogs. Though in this Christmas series I have written about a few classics like White Christmas, I prefer either lesser known songs and artists, or at least very different versions of the songs. The producer Joe Boyd once famously said, “Don’t give them what they want, give them what ought to have.” So even with writing about a choir song today, I have decided to stick to that motto.

Though I have many favorite songs that a choir typically sings at this time of year such as O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Ding Dong Merrily On High, The First Noel and many others, Suo Gan is a special one. It comes originally from Wales, where it has been known as a lullaby. Many people came across this song in the film Empire Of The Sun.  In Welsh the word ‘can’ means song, and ‘suo’ means to lull. There is much discussion about this song in books and online, particularly about the origins of the lyrics and the various translations. In fact, the connection to it being a Christmas song may be somewhat tenuous, other than the mention of angels. Regardless of the scholarly debate about it (though I do find that fascinating), the song is a special one to me for that melody. If you are not familiar with the song, have a listen to it right now-

You can hear the origins of it being a lullaby clearly. One does not have to be a musician to appreciate the simple beauty of that melody. It is only a few notes but they manage to convey so much feeling from their sparseness. Though I have heard English language versions of the song, I prefer the Welsh so much more, in part because it is such an interesting language. From the moment I heard it years ago, that melody has stayed with me. As I mentioned the other day, it is one example of a Christmas song I find myself humming, or humming  in my head throughout the year. The photo I am using today is of a simple glass angel ornament from our tree. In thinking about this song today, I just thought of the simple melody of Suo Gan, and once again returned to the idea of a simple ornament saying so much and stirring up so many thoughts for us when we take them out of the box once a year at Christmas to hang on the tree. It seemed a fitting choice for a great lullaby song. Or a great lullaby Christmas song. Or just a great song.

Please join me tomorrow for the final edition of the Christmas Soundtrack Of A Photograph and I do not say this as often as I should, but please share these with your family and friends.

Suo Gan-Traditional

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 robpatdoy@hotmail.com for details.

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