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Lo! How A Rose E’er Blooming

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Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as saints of old have sung.
It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half-spent was the night.

Isaiah t’was foretold it, the Rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
when half-spent was the night.

Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,

dispel in glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God, from sin and death he saves us,
and lightens every load.

I am not too fond of Christmas music. There is little use in buying music that I can only play one month out of the year. However, on the rare occation that I sing Christmas carols, be it at church or caroling or whathaveyou, my absolute favorite is the delightful tune, “Lo! How A Rose E’er Blooming”.

My love affair began in my sophmore year of highschool. My mom forced me to be in the Jr. Chorale, which was the school’s non-audition, for-the-underclassmen-forced-into-singing-but-don’t-really-want-to choir. It was pathetic. Other than myself, there were two other males. One was a tenor, the other joined me on the bass lines. Then there were seven females who split the soprano and alto lines.

Despite our small size, we set about learning the songs that our director, Mr John Miller, set before us. As the Jr Chorale only ran in the first semester of any given year, our main concert was over Christmas time. So each year Mr Miller had to pick a Christmas program. It was with groans that we learned that for this year Mr Miller decided that the interesting and creative approach that he would take would be to use the new Mennonite hymnal and sing most of the Christmas songs in there. Some of them were old favorites like “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, others were a bit more foreign, like “Morning Star, O Cheering Sight”.

“Lo! How A Rose E’er Blooming” knocked me off my feet, however. It was beautiful in both music and words, which were delightfully poetic. It’s been a song that has haunted me ever since, causing me to search high and low for a good recording of the song.

In reading the book “O Come All Ye Faithful”, a book about carols and their origion by Joni Eareckson Tada, John MacArthur, and Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth, I discovered that the two origional stanzas from the song were discovered in a book called “Father Conrad’s Little Prayer Book” by the translator, Theodore Baker, who developed the melody. The third verse was then added by Harriot Spaeth.

One of the best versions that I have found so far of the song is from John Michael Talbot’s christmas cd, “The Birth of Jesus”. Talbot utilizes a Reniassance feel to his music, and uses only instruments that are from that time period. However, even Talbot’s version is not as good as I’d like to find. And until I find that special version which will transport me into another time or another place, one which will make my dreams come true, I shall not stop.

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About The Theory

  • Vinny

    Hi, i came across this blog entry while searching for the english lyrics for “Low How a Rose”. I’m in a college choir that sings the german version as a Christmas Carol, and i’ll say you and i share the same feelings toward this beautiful song. i have an MP3 version sung by the Harvard Glee Club as it was originally arranged for. It’s very moving and i think it might be just what your looking for. Since this was posted 11 months ago, i’m not sure if you’ll come across this comment, but if u would like me to email or post the song somewhere for you to download i’d be glad to share it with you. write back!

  • Becky

    so i was definitely looking for a recording of lo How a Rose, and came across this, and began reading. Jr. chorale? pretty much forced to be in it? sounds like my school… mr. john miller? HOLY CRAP, THAT IS MY SCHOOL! i just thought it was really funny. i went to LMH and graduated in 2004. leave it to an LMHer to give a critique on this song, or a hymn in general. figures.

  • The Theory

    yeah… bloody LMHers!

  • thorton

    Hello all,

    It is Dec 23rd, and I was surfing for that same carol ( How a rose e’er blooming ). A local historic society has a christmas hymnal each year, and I go just to hear this one piece – haunting indeed ! Someone mentioned an MP3 of the Harvard Glee Club singing this carol – I would appreciate it if you could post that somwhere, so that I could have a listen…

    Much appreciated – Seasons Greetings…


  • Matthew Hunsberger

    How random…I’m actually researching the song because the a cappella group I sing in has recorded the song and we’re putting it on our christmas CD. I also know John Miller and have lots of friends who went to LMH, so quite coincidental to find your comments! I don’t know what style of music you like, but if you’re at all into Sufjan Stevens, his ‘Songs for Christmas’ project includes one of my favorite recordings of the song. I particularly like the one on Vol 5: Peace. If you’re looking for something more authentic than that, the a cappella ensemble “Chanson” has recorded a beautiful version of it on their album “Sing we christmas”. The one we’re putting on our new CD is a cappella, and influenced by jazz harmonies. check out our website if you’re interested: http://www.sonsoftheday.com . Peace.

  • The Theory

    Hey Matthew-
    Thanks for the comment. I am quite a big fan of Sufjan Stevens, but not too fond of his version of Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming. Probably because it isn’t the “traditional” version. Though I definitely love and respect the fact that he knew the song and thought to do it for his Christmas set.

  • Sandy

    Strangely enough, I just uploaded this song (also my favorite christmas tune) to my computer. It’s from my 8th grade chorus concert, and if you were prepubescent enough to make the 12-member group the “Carolers” as a tenor as I was in 8th grade, Lo! How a Rose was one of the songs you got to sing in front of arbitrary listeners at a local shopping center. My friend made it as a bass, and as we were both 8th graders in the predominantly 9th-grade group, it was a big deal at the time. Anyway, I figured I’d share it no matter how sketchy the recording sounds.

  • Mudi-B

    Check out the Norwegian-Swedish group ‘Trio Mediaeval’ They’ve got a lovely, spare version that they’re performing on their current tour.

  • HGC Alum

    I just returned from the Harvard Glee Club 150th anniversary celebration (oldest college chorus in the nation!) and they performed the Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming arrangement at their concert — showing that it is not just for Christmas anymore. Our copy of the music lists Michael Prätorius (1571 – 1621) as the arranger in 1609, so I suspect it was not done for the HGC :-). I agree that it is the most moving, especially the manner in which the polyphony resolves back into a octave-spanning unison after each phrase.

    There is a snippet here.