Harp Guitar Christmas

Favorite Classic Christmas Carols and Hymns, played on Solo Harp Guitar and Classical Guitar.


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Harp Guitar Christmas was a delight to record. Rediscovering the wealth of Christmas music and hearing them come to life on my instruments put me in the Christmas spirit for many weeks! My gratitude to all who helped in this project, from the instrument builders for their craft, the artwork, photos and research, to my friends who sat around the fireplace with me stringing harp guitar Christmas ornaments to place inside the CD’s.

To all, wishing you a very joyous season and joy throughout the year.

Instruments and credits

Classical Harp Guitar by Mike Doolin,  Steel string Harp Guitar by Del Langejans. All strings by GHS. Photos by Bill Puckett, Nashville, TN, Artwork by Laurie Wheeler. Special thanks to Pamela Hardy and Carlton Roos for program notes.

Recorded with a single Brauner stereo microphone. Produced and engineered by Muriel Anderson and mastered by Venus Mastering, Nashville TN. Management: WBA Entertainment, PO Box 291802, Nashville, TN 37229. Robert@WBAEntertainment.com, 615-324-7750 www.WBAEntertainment.com

1. El Noi de la Mare (The Son of Mary). Arranged for classical guitar by Andrés Segovia and Miguel Llobert (1878-1938). Arrangement for harp guitar © 2006 Muriel Anderson  Guitarists: An easy version of music/tab is available on sheet music page.

A traditional Christmas folksong of Catalunya (Catalonia) in northeastern Spain. The name, in Catalonian dialect, means The Mother’s Son or The Son of Mary. I first heard this as one of four traditional folk songs Nadala Tradicional Catalana.

El Noi de la Mare (Traditional Catalonian Carol)

Que li darem a n’el Noi de la Mare?
Que li darem li sapiga bon?
Li darem panses en unes balances,
Li darem figues en un panero.
Li darem panses en unes balances,
Li darem figues en un panero.

Que li darem al Fillet de Maria,
Que li darem a l’hermos Infanto?
Panses i figures i nuez i olives,
Panses i figures i mel i mato.
Panses i figures i nuez olives,
Panses i figures i mel i mato.

Tam patantam, que les figures son verdes,
Tam patantam, que ja maduraran.
Si no maduren el dia de Pasqua,
Maduraran en el dia del Ram.
Si no maduren el dia de Pasqua,
Maduraran en el dia del Ram.

English Translation: THE SON OF MARY

What shall we give to the Son of the Virgin?
What can we give that the Babe will enjoy?
First, we shall give Him a tray full of raisins,
Then we shall offer sweet figs to the Boy.
First, we shall give Him a tray full of raisins,
Then we shall offer sweet figs to the Boy.

What shall we give the Beloved of Mary?
What can we give to her beautiful Child?
Raisins and olives and nutmeats and honey,
Candy and figs and some cheese that is mild.
Raisins and olives and nutmeats and honey,
Candy and figs and some cheese that is mild.

What shall we do if the figs are not ripened?
What shall we do if the figs are still green?
We shall not fret; if they’re not ripe for Easter,
On a Palm Sunday, ripe figs will be seen.
We shall not fret, if they’re not ripe for Easter,
On a Palm Sunday, ripe figs will be seen.

2. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Music by John B. Calkin, 1872, Words by Henry W. Longfellow, 1864. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

In 1872 John Baptiste Calkin composed the melody for several stanzas of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells,” leaving out Longfellow’s verses about the American Civil War that was raging in 1864, yet still ending with the confident hope of peace. On her solo harp guitar, Muriel imitates the sounds of church bells she heard early one Sunday morning in Switzerland.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along, the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound, the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

3. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Music by Johann Schop (1590-1664) Arranged by: Johann S. Bach, 1723, Words by Martin James, 1661. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

J.S. Bach was director of church music in Leipzig, where composed cantatas to be performed every Sunday. The low strings of Muriel’s harp guitar bring out the choral sections, “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, Holy wisdom, love most bright.”


Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.


Jesu, Freude am Wünschen des Mannes
Heilige Klugheit, Liebe am hellsten
Gezeichnet durch Thee, unsere Seelen strebend
Steigen Sie zu uncreated Licht an
Wort Gottes, unser Fleisch, das umarbeitete
Wenn das Feuer des Lebens aufgewühlt ist
Zum Wahrheit Unbekannten noch sich bemühen
Hochfliegend, sterbend ringsum Thy Thron

4. Greensleeves (What Child is This). Traditional English folk song, Words by William Chatterton Dix, 1865. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

There is a misconception that the words to the tune “Greensleeves” — which is the tune used in this carol — was written by King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547). This melody has a long history, beginning with its first mention in 1580 as a “new northern dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves.” It later was used as a political ballad, and was mentioned in Act Two, Scene One of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him; T
he King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

5. Angels We Have Heard on High. Music: Gloria (Barnes), French carol melody; arranged by Edwin S Barnes. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

The original carol “Les Anges dans nos Campagnes” refers to the legend of the shepherds in southern France watching their flocks on Christmas Eve and calling each other across the fields and hills, singing the words “gloria in excelsis Deo.” The shepherds’ song is an imitation of the song of the angels as they announced the birth of Christ on the first Christmas Eve.

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

6. In the Bleak Midwinter. Music by Gustav T. Holst, 1906, Words by Christina Rossetti, 1872. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

Christina Rossetti wrote “In the Bleak Midwinter” for Scribner’s Monthly magazine in 1872. This poem was later set to music by Gustav Holst. Although historically, Jesus is thought to have been born in the month of May, the celebration of his birth was declared the 25th of December by the 4th century church to Christianize winter solstice pagan festivals. And in so doing, to add cheer to one of the bleakest times of the year.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
now had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

7. Christmas Hymn. Music by Muriel Anderson ©2006 Muriel Anderson, Heartstrings Attached Music, BMI

Muriel composed this melody for Wheaton College chapel service in 1995 originally entitled “Hymn for All the Answered Prayers.”

Thank you for the answered prayers
For many times I’ve prayed
When patience was my greatest need
You beckoned me to wait
When patience was my greatest need
You beckoned me to wait

In humble prayer I ask to find
The path I need to take
And when my road is steep and long
You’ve given me the strength

Blessed Lord I marvel at
The wisdom in the Truth
Thank you for the Answered Prayers
For I’ve had more than few
Thank you for the Answered Prayers
For I’ve had more than few

8. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Music by Lewis H Redner, 1868, Words: Phillips Brooks, 1867. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

Brooks took a pilgrimage by horse back from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in 1865, and was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the Palestine hills in the evening. His church organist Lewis Redner wrote the melody to O Little Town of Bethlehem for the Sunday school children’s choir.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

9. Medley: O Come O Come Emmanuel / Pat-A-Pan / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. 15th Century French / Burgundian, c 1700 / 16th Century English carol, Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

This medley for harp guitar begins with a modal droning sound, in a style reminiscent of the music that may have been played in Jesus’ time. The 12th Century Latin poem O Come O Come Emmanuel (Veni, veni Emanuel) translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale, Mediaeval Hymns, 1851, is set to music from 15th Century French Franciscan nuns (the setting for the funeral hymn Libera me); arranged by Thomas Helmore in the Hymnal Noted, (London: 1856). The title comes from the well known Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with us.”

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

“Pat-a-pan,” a carol from Burgundy, France, is about two boys who learn about the unity of God and man by playing their flute and drum together. The tambourin is a small elongated drum, hung from the shoulders, and played originally with the hands.

Original French dialect lyrics :

Guillo, pran ton tamborin
Toi, pran tai fleute Robbin; Au son de ces instruman
Turelurelu, patapatapan; Au son de ces instruman.
Je diron Noei gaiman.

William, beat your drum with joy!
Sound your fife now, Robin boy!
While your instruments you play,
Tu-re lu-re-lu, pata patapan,
While your instruments you play,
We shall sing Noel so gay.
People in the days of yore
Did the King of Kings adore;
While your instruments you play,
Tu-re lu-re-lu, pata patapan,
While your instruments you play,
We must do the same today.
Like mankind and mankind’s Lord
Fife and drum are in accord;
While your instruments you play,
Tu-re lu-re-lu, pata patapan,
While your instruments you play,
Let us dance and sing today.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman has been cited as one of the most popular carols in England for centuries, with the melody dating back as early as 1580. The words of the song had different meanings in the time of its writing; rest meant “keep,” while merry meant “mighty” or “strong”-thus, the title in modern English means “May God keep you gentlemen strong.” It is believed that the song was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.
In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.
From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”
The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.
But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.
God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near-
That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.

10. Away in a Manger. (Medley of 3 versions) 19th century, Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

There are three melodies that are frequently sung to the lyrics of “Away in a Manger.” Most attribute two similar melodies as anonymous American, and the lyrics are also sung to the melody of the German folk song, “Flow Gently Sweet Afton.” In Muriel’s arrangement she includes all three melodies and at one point plays one melody in the treble and another melody in the bass simultaneously.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the (bright) sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

11. Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Music by Felix Mendelssohn, 1840, Words by Charles Wesley 1739. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

In 1840. Mendelssohn’s melody was originally written to commemorate Johann Gutenberg and the invention of printing. Dr. William Cummings put the words and music together in 1855, after both Wesley and Mendelssohn were dead, in spite of evidence that neither author nor composer would have approved.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

12. O Holy Night. Music by Adolphe Adam, lyrics by Placide Cappeau (1847) Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

Wine commissionaire and occasional poet Cappeau brought his poem, “Minuit, Chretiens” to an acquaintance, Jewish composer Adolphe Adam, to compose a Christmas song for the local parish priest in Roquemaure, France. When O Holy Night was first released, churchmen in Cappeau’s Roquemaure, France denounced it for its “lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion.” This was more for political than musical reasons, as Cappeau was known as a radical, speaking out freely against oppression and the composer of the melody was a Jew. Fortunately, the hymn has prevailed and it is said to have been the first music ever broadcast over a radio.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

13. Silent Night. Music by Franz Gruber, c. 1820, words by Josef Mohr, c.1817. Arrangement © 2006 Muriel Anderson

The traditional story is that Mohr and Gruber wrote Silent Night for the guitar in Oberndorf, Austria, on Christmas Eve when they discovered the church organ was broken (different versions say it rusted out, or mice chewed through the bellows). However, an old manuscript has reportedly been discovered that shows Franz Gruber wrote the score 2-4 years after Mohr wrote the lyrics. Whatever the truth, it has been reputed as the first known “guitar mass” and this carol has been a Christmas favorite for almost 200 years.

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

All instrumental compositions arranged by Muriel Anderson and published by Heartstrings Attached Music, BMI