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What makes a good Christmas carol?
'Silent Night' tops the list for its simple, sweet melody
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Christmas carols like "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night" are part of everyone's holiday experience.
But what keeps these tunes so popular year after year? It's all about the beautiful melodies, according to the Rev. Mark Green

"One that is memorable is ... ‘Silent Night,'" said Green, the minister of music at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. "That is a memorable melody with a repetition. I think the mood of the music really captures the spirit of that night, the holiness and the wonder.

"O' Little town of Bethlehem' has a beautiful melody as well as capturing the event of Christmas. It's also a prayer that he will come to change things from what they are, and I think that makes it very powerful."

For eight years now, Green has directed the Living Christmas Tree, which is currently running at First Baptist. He said there is one song that makes the show each year.

"Every year (it) is the ‘Hallelujah Chorus' from (George Frederick Handel's) ‘Messiah.' I tried one year to leave that out and people were not happy," Green said. "That is such a wonderful benediction about Christ being the king of kings and lord of lords."

This year, First Baptist will have traditional songs like "Joy to the World" and "O' Little Town of Bethlehem" in the performance, along with some lesser known carols like "Night of the Father's Love."
The Rev. Mark Russell said he always incorporates "Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "What Child is This" and "O' Come All Ye Faithful."

"They are in every program I have ever done," said Russell, the music minister at New Holland Baptist Church.

"(The perfect Christmas carol) points to the true reason for the season," he said. "That is Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the simpler carols are the best, because it was a simple birth.

"My favorite has always been ‘Silent Night' because it goes back to that Jesus was born with really no fanfare ... but no one really knew it."

Brenau University assistant professor of music Priscilla Jefcoat agreed that the music must point toward the heart of the holiday season.  "I guess a perfect Christmas carol is one that speaks to the heart," she said. "It relates to the real meaning of Christmas and family and the love of Christ."

Jefcoat teaches piano, music theory and music history at Brenau.

Even though Russell leans toward "Silent Night," he said he can't begin to choose a clear favorite. "I love them all, but to me those are the ones that really put the message out there and don't do anything to cloud the message," Russell said.

The upcoming sixth annual Singing Christmas Tree performance at New Holland Baptist is called The Heart of Christmas and begins Dec. 15. There are about 50 people in New Holland's performance, between the choir and the orchestra. Last year the church had more than 1,000 come to see the show.

"I try to always incorporate traditional and familiar music," Russell said. "Along with newer stuff that I think is attractive to people but it holds the message. "The musical we have this year is awesome and people who like the traditional Christmas music will enjoy it also."

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