Easy Hymn/Anthems for the Christmas Season

So many of us who serve in smaller parishes are sometimes confronted with smaller than usual choirs for Christmas Eve and for the Sunday after Christmas Day.  Our folks are often out of town visiting family or just too busy with their own Christmas celebrations to make it to church.

Here are some suggestions for hymns that can be used as anthems for Christmas Eve and the Sunday after Christmas Day.  They are taken from The Hymnal 1982, Wonder, Love, and Praise, and My Heart Sings Out.

Hymnal 80 – From heaven above to earth I come – Vom Himmel Hoch

  • Divide stanzas between men and women;
  • Add hand bells at the eighth rests;
  • If SATB parts are available us the accompaniment and have choir sing parts,
    a cappella if possible;
  • Use parts of a chorale prelude on the tune for an introduction

Hymnal 82 – Of the Father’s love begotten – Divinum Mysterium

  • Three stanzas with plainsong rhythm and last stanza metrically;
  • Use hand bells to punctuate plainsong at the pauses (Eb, F, G, Bb, Db, Eb) and randomly on the last stanza;
  • Have men drone on Eb and Bb for a stanza;
  • Use a C instrument on the alto line in accompaniment 8va higher

Hymnal 88 – Sing, O sing, this blessed morn – England’s Lane

  • Try unison on the first and last stanzas and use men and women alternately on the inner stanzas; SATB, if available on a stanza; a soloist, if available could sing one stanza; all would sing the Refrain;
  • A descant using parts of the alto and tenor lines can be sung on the last stanza;
  • Use a C instrument on the melody, on the descant on one of the inner stanzas, and on the last stanza

Hymnal 91 – Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light – Ermuntre dich

  • If SATB is available, sing in parts;
  • Men on first phrase, women on second phrase, all on remaining phrases;
  • With a couple of minor adjustments, the men could sing the tenor line with women on the melody

Hymnal 92 – On this day earth shall ring – Personent Hodie

  • Alternate women and men on the inner stanzas; all sing refrain;
  • Use handbells on the upper notes of the refrain

Hymnal 95 – While shepherds watched their flocks – Hampton 

  • Alternate men and women on the odd numbered stanzas; parts, if available on the even numbered stanzas;
  • C instrument on the even numbered stanzas on the alto or tenor lines; if two instruments are available have them play those parts together;
  • Use Winchester Old (94) in place of one of the verses (must transpose up a step)

Hymnal 98 – Unto us a boy is born – Puer nobis nascitur

  • As written in the hymnal, it is already an anthem;
  • Alternate women and men on stanzas

Hymnal 99 – Go tell it on the mountain – Go tell it on the mountain

  • All on the Refrain in parts if available;
  • Use sopranos on the melody of the verses with other parts singing ‘ooh’;
  • Use tenors on the melody of a verse with other parts singing ooh; sopranos sing the tenor part 8va higher

Hymnal 103 – A child is born in Bethlehem – Puer Natus in Bethlehem

  • Alternate women and men on stanzas with all singing the Refrain;
  • Use hand bells, if available. If not, have the hand bell part played on the piano;
  • On one of the inner stanzas us equal note rhythm, not using the accompaniment

Hymnal 104 – A stable lamp is lighted – Andújar

  • Alternate men and women on the stanzas;
  • Use a C instrument on the melody;
  • An anthem version of this hymn is available (GIA G-4121) for piano, organ, flute, and choir. Use just the accompaniment and have the choir sing from the hymnal

Hymnal 110 – The snow lay on the ground – Venite Adoremus

  • Alternate men and women on stanzas; if enough singers are available have them sing the soprano and alto parts from accompaniment;
  • Could be sung with a guitar on the chords given in the hymnal

Hymnal 113 – Oh, sleep now, holy baby – A la ru

  • Use a guitar for the accompaniment using chords in hymnal; note that guitar and keyboard do not sound together;
  • Have a soloist sing the stanza in Spanish and the choir sing repeat it in English;
  • Ask altos to sing their part from the accompaniment

Hymnal 114 – Twas in the moon of wintertime – Une Jeune Pucelle

  • Sopranos sing the melody and other parts sing ooh on from the accompaniment;
  • Use alternative accompaniment for a stanza or two;
  • Add a rain stick, drum, or finger cymbals

Hymnal 491 – Where is this stupendous stranger – Kit Smart

  • Alternate men and women on stanzas;
  • Use alternative accompaniment and have altos, tenors, and basses sing ooh; while sopranos sing melody

WLP 725 – Holy night, blessed night – Sheng Ye Jing

  • Learn a stanza in Mandarin. Pronunciation instructions are found in the Leader’s Guide of WLP;
  • Use a solo instrument for the melody while the organ plays the lower parts for a stanza or two;
  • Use wind chimes if available;
  • Use handbells either to punctuate the end of each phrase or randomly. Use a pentatonic scale (D, E, F#, A, B)

WLP 726 – Where is this stupendous stranger – Mariposa

  • Another setting of this lovely text. See 491 in H82 above.

MHSO 65 – Jesus our brother, kind, and good – by Pierre de Corbiel

  • Have an intergenerational choir with children singing one of the verses
  • Use a guitar (chords are given)

MHSO 67 – The Virgin Mary had a baby boy – West Indian Carol

  • Great for a unison choir
  • Percussion instruments are a must

NHSO 70 – That boy-child of Mary – by Tom Colvin

  • This would be a good choice for a treble choir, sopranos and altos in parts on the verses
  • As suggested in MHSO, divide the question and answer musical phrases between two groups
  • MHSO also has suggestions for percussion instruments