At the Foot of the Christ Child

by wade baynham

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about

There's not really an ideal time to record Advent and Christmas music. For those of us who try to record the music well before the season rolls around, it brings up some interesting feelings. Warm weather, shorts, t-shirts and sweat dripping off headphones can give the musicians a challenge to get in the 'Christmas spirit.' Several people have also told me that hearing sleigh bells in August is enough to stop a Christmas project right in its tracks... Fortunately, I actually like sleigh bells in many different types of music.

When this summer came to a close, I was thinking about adding 'Good King Wenceslas' to the version of 'O come O Come Emmanuel' that I had recorded last year. Denise had headed from summer break back to teaching her third graders all manner of good life lessons, and I had the time in the studio to work on some music of my own, so I dove in.

Thankfully, the lyric and the melody gave me plenty of inspiration, and I enjoyed working on the musical arrangement quite a bit. We had stumbled on a wild-looking, Carolina-blue accordion last year, and it was particularly fun to get to work that onto this recording.

Interspersed throughout this fall, I was also recording some drums with my good friend Keith Matthews for another project. We talked on and off about some of our favorite Christmas music from when we were growing up. Keith and I are about the same age, and we discovered that we were both fans of 'The Little Drummer Boy' and 'Do You Hear What I Hear.' I was pretty intimidated at the thought of working on songs as iconic as these. Although I've recorded a couple of albums worth of Christmas music in the past, these somehow felt more daunting. But Keith mentioned that his mom would be incredibly pleased to hear her son drumming on 'The Little Drummer Boy,' and so I decided that it was worth a try.

I did know that the grandeur I remembered from some of the lush orchestral arrangements on Andy Williams' recordings wasn't in my grasp. My arrangement of 'Good King' already had a folk/celtic thing going to go along with a folky/atmospheric thing I had done on 'O Come Emmanuel.' So, I set out to find intimate arrangements for 'Drummer Boy' and 'Do You Hear' that still evoked the familiarity and the heartfelt wonder I remembered from singing along as a kid.

While those songs began to take shape, Denise mentioned the traditional Christmas song 'While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.' And with apologies to Mr. G.F. Handel, I began to shape the chords a bit on this lovely melody to work more comfortably with my tremolo guitar part. I also tried to move it into a more intimate realm as well-- away from the large church choral arrangements that dominated the versions I was familiar with. For this recording process, I ended up setting up a mic in the center of our living room by the piano, and just moved in a circle around the mic playing various instruments, to try to evoke the feel of a small chamber group, and to keep a folky flair.

For my personal meditation, I had been doing a good bit of reading from Richard Rohr, and had also been listening to Eckhart Tolle lectures. While I was journaling some ideas from this material, some lyrics started to take shape-- I began to imagine a personal invitation to the foot of the Christ child in the familiar manger scene. I felt a drawn to the ideas of the Present Moment, the Incarnation, Being Itself and Love Itself, in which we are all invited to partake. I hope this moment translates in the finished song, which is also the project title, 'At the Foot of the Christ Child.'

Finally, I had been reading about the origin of 'Silent Night,' and how it was composed on guitar, rather than piano or organ like much of the church music of the time. I learned how the original was also performed in waltz time, rather than the straighter march time that we often hear in arrangements of the song today. I thought that it might be fun to record it using the vintage technology of ribbon mics with an acoustic slide guitar part in a kind of of a blues-ey/folk style, along with upright bass in a kind of swinging waltz time. I hoped it would be a good lullaby to come along after 'At the Foot of the Christ Child.'

During the whole process, I was often recording near our fire place, and near the place where we traditionally have put our tree by our piano. I easily imagined other folks listening to these songs by their fire places and by their trees, and it gave me a lot of inspiration and hope. This recording process was truly enjoyable for me, and supplied me with many peaceful moments for meditation and reflection in the midst of all the songs and sounds.

I hope that this music can be a warm and hopeful embrace as you celebrate however you celebrate this season. And my prayer is for hope and peace and joy-- that each of us can be deeply moved at how truly loved we all are, not for anything we do, but simply for Being.
-Wade

credits

released November 28, 2014

Produced and Recorded by Wade Baynham at The Second Story Durham, NC
Cover Photography and Art by Denise Friesen Baynham

Thanks
-to Denise Friesen Baynham for the original ideas, photography, and more love and support throughout the conception and recording than I knew how to imagine.
-to Keith Matthews for drums, conversation, fellowship and inspiration
-to Dale Baker for drums, percussion and long-time friendship
-to Mary Saou for lending beautiful harmony vocals
-to Robert Bailey for being a fellow traveler on the soul's journey , and for mining the depths with me in readings and conversation
-to Jack Hester for the use of his amazing vintage amplifiers

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Track Name: O Come O Come Emmanuel
O Come O Come Emmanuel
traditional public domain

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 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.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come desire of nations bind In one the hearts of all human kind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease And be Thyself our Prince of Peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel
Track Name: Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas
Music and Lyrics by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay 'round about Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine Bring me pine-logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament And the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shall find the winter's rage Freeze the blood less coldly."

In his master's step he trod Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, rejoice Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now shall bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.
Track Name: The Little Drummer Boy
The Little Drummer Boy
by Katherine Kennicott Davis and Harry Simeone
Track Name: Do You Hear What I Hear
Do You Hear What I Hear
Music by Gloria Shayne Baker and Lyrics by Noel Regny
Track Name: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Lyrics by Nahum Tate and Music by George F. Handel

While shepherds watched Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around And glory shone around

"Fear not," he said, For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds "Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind, To you and all mankind."

"To you in David's Town this day
Is born of David's line The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign And this shall be the sign."

"The heavenly Babe You there shall find To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped In swathing band
And in a manger laid And in a manger laid."


"All glory be to God on high And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth From heaven to men
Begin and never cease Begin and never cease!"
Track Name: At the Foot of the Christ Child
At the Foot of the Christ Child
by Wade Baynham

Come, Fear not, Rest, Find Peace
Find Joy, Find Love, and Know Presence
Open your hands, Open your eyes
Stretch out your arms, Kneel, Stand, Walk, Run
Cry and Be Free

Learn to be you, Learn to be me, Learn to Be
Find Strength, Find Hope, Enter Rest
Lay it down, Put it aside, Let it fall, Sing a Song.
Take a bow, Find your gifts in

I AM life and love, peace and hope and joy
I AM here now in this, in you, you're in me, we are we
I AM this moment this place, this body this breath, Yahweh
I AM light so bright so dazzling. so intense
I AM birth and rebirth, I'm with you always
I AM

Stare in Awe, Look in Wonder, Be Amazed
Laugh out loud, Exclaim to the sky, Dance in Circles
He is Being, He is Alive, This is Now
This IS, We Are, We are together
Right Here, Right Now, In this moment
This Now is Forever, This Is the Kingdom
We are Invited, We're in Christ, We are One in

I AM breath and life, and hope and peace and joy
I AM here now in this, in you, and you are in me, we'll be we
I AM this moment this place, this body this breath, I"m Yahweh
I AM light so bright so dazzling. so intense
I AM birth and rebirth, I'm with you now and forever
I AM

Rockaby little baby now, your time will come
Rockaby little baby now, your time will come
Sleep now, little baby now, your time, your time will come
Track Name: Silent Night
Silent Night
Lyrics by Joseph Mohr and Music by Franz Gruber

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 dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth