O Holy Night arranged for piano quartet. Duration: 4:56.
Cantique de Noël
The French composer Adolphe Adam was already famous as a composer of many successful ballets and operas. Then, in the 1840’s he wrote his most famous work - O Holy Night. The original song title was Minuit Chretiens or Cantiquede Noël. Placide Cappeau provided the original song lyrics. The song was first performed in Roquemaure by the opera singer Emily Laurey at midnight mass in 1847. It became very popular among the French, much the way that Silent Night was famous elsewhere. In the1850’s John S. Dwight, a Unitarian minister and music teacher translated the song into English.
In his younger years, Adam studied organ and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. He also played the timpani in the Conservatoire orchestra. Adam used his savings and borrowed money to open a new opera house - the fourth opera house in Paris in 1847. Unfortunately, the Revolution of 1848 forced him to close. He taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire from 1849 until his death in 1856.
Thepoet Cappeau was an advocate of the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. Voltaire was renowned for criticizing the Catholic church, religious intolerance, and dogma in general. Consequently, Cappeau made the Redeemer figure in his song a kind of reformer of injustices, in particular, the problem of original sin. To begin with, people recognized Cappeau’s theology as eccentric, probably even doubtful.
In the earlier form of Minuit, the Christ figure descends to intervene with His Father’s plan to punish mankind. Traditional doctrine pronounces that Christ came from love, not to intervene. This version also declares that Christ appeared to expunge the original sin of Adam. Cappeau removed this part from his poem years later, because he just didn’t believe it. He preferred to portray Christ as the reformer of disparity and unfairness. Before long, the writer/politician Alphonse de Lamartine referred to the Minuit as the “the Marseillaise of religion.” Most French churchmen agreed with this idea but certainly did not consider it a tribute.