12 Days of Christmas: “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” by Jars of Clay

I maintain a blog at a writing website, and I’m counting down my top twelve favorite Christmas songs. In a site full of writers, it shouldn’t surprise me that the majority of participants are selecting songs based on lyrics. But I’m a musician first, and my selections are all based first on the music. Where appropriate, I’ll give a nod to the lyrics as well.

My first choice is “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” by Jars of Clay.

Here’s what you’ll hear:

1. A gorgeous classical guitar riff that carries steadily throughout the piece.
2. Rich baritone vocals on the lead line, beginning with verse 1, “God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…”
3. A mournful violin and ting on the TRIANGLE (your fave preschool instrument used in real, published music) kicking off Verse 2.
4. An incredibly unique chord progression created by the vocal harmonies of a high tenor through the second verse.
5. The most awesome bass walk of all time at 1:29. It’s even better than “Let It Be” which is arguably the most famous bass walk of all time.
6. A wistful classical guitar and violin duet around 1:35, joined by a clarinet at 1:40 and cello at 1:47. CHILLS.
7. Another ting on the triangle at 2:12. Oh yeah, baby. Eat your heart out, Jimmy Fallon.
8. Clever vocal “percussion” on beats 2,3,4 throughout the third verse.
9. The haunting clarinet soaring over the violin, cello, guitar, and vocal awesomeness until the last note.

Since I’m a writer too, I can’t ignore the lyrics. Could you ask for a more poetic proclamation of the birth of Christ? Excepting, of course, the nagging sexism, which I would be remiss not to mention. But this arrangement is so musically compelling that it remains one of my top twelve favorites, and I just like to pretend us women should also let nothing us dismay. We are all saved from Satan’s pow’r when we’ve gone astray, regardless of our gender. :-D

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen

God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!
Remember Christ, the Savior, was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we had gone astray.
O, tidings of comfort and joy!

From God our Heaven’ly 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!


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