The first Sunday after Christmas Day is a good day to present adoration carols, which naturally follow the hymns of announcement and
nativity. Although there is some overlap with the other two types, these songs are generally about
those drawn to the manger
by the Herald Angels, Star, or simple word of mouth
beginning with the animals sharing
the stable, those shepherds who abided in their fields, towns people (Bring a Torch Jeannette, Isabella,)
children (Little Drummer Boy,) and
ultimately the Magi.
What Child is
inspired by Renaissance paintings of the Adoration
of the Shepherds and the lyrics ultimately paired with the Medieval English ballad Greensleeves
the melody of which is sometimes attributed to King Henry VIII.
Henry VIII may have been the composer of Greensleeves or not.
The lyrics were
written by William Chatterton Dix, the
manager of an insurance company after he was afflicted by an unexpected and severe
illness that left him bedridden and suffering from severe depression in 1865. It was published as a poem under the title The Manger Throne.
What Child Is This? was published
six years later in 1871, when it featured in Christmas Carols Old and New,
the prestigious and influential collection of carols edited by Henry Ramsden Bramley and John
Stainer. It is not known with
certainty who paired three stanzas
from the poem with the music from Greensleeves,
Christmas Encyclopedia by William
D. Crump and Stories of the Great
Christmas Carols both suggest that Stainer, who was also responsible for harmonizing the musical setting may have done so.
Despite its very
English origins the song is much more popular
in the United States than in the
land that gave it birth, perhaps because Brits
are much more aware of Greensleeves original
words, a romp suggesting a summer seduction.
have been recorded by choirs and solo artists including Johnny Mathis, Andrea Bocelli, Marina
McBride, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Tomlin. Today we feature a recording by semi-classical
singer, Broadway star, pop phenomenon, and heart throb Josh Groban.