“When Christ Was Born” — A Choir Song by Joan Alexander-Hall

This song is my Christmas gift to everyone

WhenChristWasBornCover

When Christ Was Born is a lovely gospel choir song for Christmas. It has an African choral feel to it, and it’s easy to learn and easy to sing.

I wrote this song in 1995, and I’ve taught it to choirs at my own church and other churches. It always goes over well when it’s sung in services and programs.

On this page you can hear and download a demo version of When Christ Was Born for free. This page also has the complete lyrics to the song. I hope you enjoy learning, teaching, and sharing this sweet Christmas song.

 

(This picture is the cover graphic that I used when I made a CD version of When Christ Was Born with some friends of mine. The graphic was made by the guy from the company that manufactured the CD package, Cargill Consultants, Inc. Unfortunately, he didn’t include his name on the credits.)

 

Video: Demo recording of “When Christ Was Born” – with lyrics

 

This video uses the same demonstration recording that you can download for free on this page. It’s just me multi-tracking myself.

 

How “When Christ Was Born” was written

I was driving when I wrote it. Yep, really.

The first seed of the song came earlier, when I was listening to some African music on the radio at home. I heard a little two-note rhythm and shape that I thought would be great opening for a “Hallelujah” (although the song on the radio took it in a very different direction and had other words). That little seed of an idea just stayed in the back of my mind for a long time.

Then, one night in November of 1995, I was driving home from a church convention (in San Bernardino, as I recall, or maybe Ontario). As I was driving I was thinking that I’d like to write a song for our upcoming Christmas concert. I wanted to write something that would have a different sound from the standard Christmas carols. Then I remembered that little “Hallelujah” idea and decided to try making a song that drew on a bit of the feeling of the South African choirs that I love so much, like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, etc. I started putting pieces together in my mind as I continued driving, and by the time I got back to Los Angeles, the song was just about done.

And don’t worry, I’ve done all the paperwork to get it copyrighted.The Library of Congress Registration Number is PAu002042251

 

 

The first performance . . .

Image shared on Wikimedia Commons by Alina Zienowicz.

Image shared on Wikimedia Commons by Alina Zienowicz.

. . . almost didn’t happen.

The choir that was having the Christmas concert was the District Choir that I direct, which is a mass choir made up of several churches. So any songs that were suggested for the concert had to be approved by the head of the district.

I made a quick tape recording of myself and a few relatives singing the song (after Thanksgiving dinner) and sent it to him. I was hoping that he would get the idea of the nature of the song in spite of the roughness of the tape recording. He didn’t. He called me and politely suggested that he had some other Christmas music in mind that he was hoping I would consider. I negotiated with him to let me try the song one time in rehearsal and then we could decide whether it should be included in the concert program (I had already started teaching it to some of the choir members at my own church, so I was confident that it would sound just as good with the whole district). He agreed to give it a try.

Things went great in the district rehearsal and I got the green light to include “When Christ Was Born” in the concert. The District Choir did a lovely job on it at the concert and it has been done in several Christmas services since then.

Free download of “When Christ Was Born”

This is a living-room recording I made of the song. It’s me, multi-tracked, singing all the parts along with a very simple piano and percussion track. You’re free to download it, learn it, teach it to your own choir, and sing it in your church.

When Christ Was Born

words/music by Joan Alexander (Hall)

(right-click to download)

 

 

Lyrics to “When Christ Was Born”

by Joan Alexander-Hall

 

The angels sang in heaven, the night when Christ was born

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

They told the humble shepherds, about the holy child

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Oh holy night, when Christ was born, Hallelujah

The wise men came to worship, the night when Christ was born

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

They journeyed from the East, to the place where Jesus lay

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Oh holy night, when Christ was born, Hallelujah

He came to be our Savior, He came to set us free

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The holy one from heaven, lying in the bed of hay

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Oh holy night, when Christ was born, Hallelujah

 

CD version

I made a CD of When Christ Was Born back in 1997 with some friends of mine. The name we gave our group was The Apostolic Project.

The CD was a single with two Christmas songs. One was When Christ Was Born, and the other was a song called Glory, which is a cappella and has a Baroque feel to it.

The recording came out pretty good, but not completely the way I hear it in my head. I’m very grateful, though, to the wonderful people who devoted so much time and energy to learning the song and recording it with me. I love you guys.

If you see any websites with this CD listed at a high price, don’t buy it! There are some sites that seem to just feature anything that’s listed at CD Baby without knowing what it is. I have seen sites trying to charge full album price for this CD when it’s a single that only has two songs on it.

Both songs are available as MP3 downloads at Amazon.

 

Tips for performing “When Christ Was Born”

Angelic Choir of the Nativity.  Ancient Greek painting.  Public domain.

Angelic Choir of the Nativity. Ancient Greek painting. Public domain.

I do When Christ Was Born in G. If you’re working with gospel musicians, they might prefer Ab, which will work fine as well.

I originally wrote the song for a 3-part choir — Soprano, Alto, and Tenor — because that’s the most common configuration for contemporary gospel choirs. The altos sing the main words on the verses, with accents from the tenors and sopranos. All of the parts sing together on portions of the verses and on the chorus.

I added a Bass part later and have taught it that way to 4-part choirs, which was great for me because I’m a big fan of 4-part singing.

Choirs like the song because it doesn’t have any notes that are painfully high.

The 3-part version would definitely need the instrumental accompaniment to have a full sound. The 4-part version would probably sound good with nothing but the percussion, especially if the basses added a low hum on the G underneath the altos when they do their part.

For accompaniment I use one keyboard instrument (either piano, electric keyboard, or organ) and bongos to keep the African feeling going. At the end of the song, when we get to the repeating chorus, I usually have the keyboard drop out after a couple of repeats and finish the song with just the choir and the bongos.

On the final “hallelujah” that closes the song, I have the choir hold out the syllable “LE” for a while — “Halle – – – – – – – – – – – lujah”.

Practice tracks and sheet music

WhenChristWasBorn-scoreYou can purchase individual practice tracks for the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts from ChoirParts.com.

There is sheet music there as well (vocals only) in PDF format.

Here’s the link: When Christ Was Born — choir parts and sheet music.

Want to make my day? Record my song!

I would love to see other choirs make recordings of any of my songs, especially When Christ Was Born.

If you want to record it, just send me an email informing me that you plan to do it. Royalties would be at the regular statutory rate and could be done through PayPal, nice and easy.


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3 comments

  1. A nice and easy song…thanks for sharing! This is a great site that you have made…perfect for a novice like myself. Thank you for taking the time to share your talent and experience. God Bless you!

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