Home Christian News New Podcast ‘Hark!’ Explores the Stories Behind the Most Beloved Christmas Carols

New Podcast ‘Hark!’ Explores the Stories Behind the Most Beloved Christmas Carols

Christmas carols are packed with theology and history that even the most regular churchgoers may not know, according to podcast host Maggi Van Dorn.

Christmas Carols
Logo for the “Hark!” podcast. Courtesy image

(RNS) — Mary, did you know … how that perennially divisive song got made about you?

Many people don’t know the stories behind their favorite Christmas carols, it turns out.

That’s where “Hark! The Stories Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols” comes in. The new podcast produced by Jesuit-owned America Media and hosted by Maggi Van Dorn explores the meaning and making of some of the best-known and most-loved Christmas carols.

Van Dorn, the audio producer at America Media, describes herself as a “big consumer of podcasts” and said the idea for “Hark!” was inspired by another one of her favorites: “Song Exploder,” a podcast in which musicians take apart their songs and explain how they were made.

She thought it would be interesting to apply the same idea to hymns and other church music. The only problem: Many of those songs were written decades or even centuries ago and their composers have since passed away.

So she turned to the musicians, composers, musicologists, biblical scholars, theologians and cultural commentators studying and performing their music today.

Maggi Van Dorn. Courtesy photo

      Maggi Van Dorn. Courtesy photo

And, as the holiday season approached, she realized Christmas carols were “almost a slam dunk” for a podcast.

“Of all the church songs and hymns, these are the most popular, and if you don’t go to church, even if you’re not a religious person, you probably still grew up singing Christmas carols and might enjoy a few today,” Van Dorn said.

They also are packed with theology and history that even the most regular churchgoers may not know.

Take “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” for instance.

The tune and lyrics to what is now the most published Christmas carol actually developed independently of each other, Van Dorn said she learned in making the podcast. It began as a poem written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, who founded Methodism. Later, the poem was paired with a tune written by German composer Felix Mendelssohn to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.

1
2
Previous articleRachael Denhollander Named Calvin University’s 2021 Kuyper Prize Recipient
Next articleHigh Court to Hear Pastor’s Case Against Virus Charges
Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.