The Harmony of A Christmas Rose
There is a freshness to the 17th-century carol “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” compared to the upbeat Christmas carols like “Joy To The World” or the cascading melody of “Carol of the Bells”. It’s breathtakingly somber and really transports you to the chill of winter with sustained its sustained notes. The result is a smooth sound, like a boat sliding on the cold winter lake. From the onset, you won’t hear any note jump out at you from nowhere to make you clap for Christmas. The chords which move the words patiently one syllable after the next are almost like the invisible blossoming of a rose if by any chance that process was audible. The tranquil arrangement delivers a sense of peace, which the world can benefit from. This sound is the harmonization by German composer Michael Praetorius. Praetorius produced an encyclopedia of hymns and he was a master in settings from two voices to a full choral. In “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” Praetorius produced a score that fits the meditation of the Rose described by the words of the carol who is none other than Mary, the mother of the Messiah.
The German carol was originally written with verses from the book of Isaiah, in which the birth of the Messiah was foretold. A verse in the carol explains that the rose symbolizes Mary who is to bring forth the child Jesus. As well as Jesus’ royal ancestry, because he is a descendant of Jesse, father of King David. The chord of melancholy “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” strikes may be the effect of the tribulations Mary embraced from the time she conceived Jesus to the grief of his crucifixion and death. She knew that Jesus would have to bear the iniquities of mankind, and she bloomed in every adversity she faced.