Good King Wenceslas

When I was a child I sang.  For a number of years, the children at the church I grew up in put on an annual Christmas musical, and I always participated enthusiastically, often with leading roles.  One year, I was the title character in “Good King Wenceslas,” a fictionalization in musical form of the man behind the popular Christmas carol of the same name.

I really don’t remember the music much – it would have been created by the worship support industry for churches that put on these kinds of musicals – plays complete with musical scores that children’s choir directors can pick up and make their own.

But I do think the musical focused on the best part of the holiday spirit – giving to the poor.  I think I recall that as King, I was quite distressed about what to do with my vain and worldly daughter, who was obsessed with material wealth.  I also think I remember that my daughter was played by my childhood sweetheart.

Well it turns out King Wenceslas was a saint, martyred in the 10th century.  His story, as a king interested in helping the poor, became part of the ideal of a good king taking a deep personal interest and care in providing for the needs of all his people.  The tune for the popular carol was written in the 13th century, and the modern lyrics were added in 1853.

I don’t remember even if we sang the carol in the musical – it seems likely some arrangement of the classic made it into at least one of the songs.  I do remember my daughter/childhood sweetheart’s name was Princess Wences – in retrospect, we must have been awfully adorable.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

One comment

  1. […] always interested to learn of the relationships between lyrics and tunes; I’ve also written on Good King Winceslas and It is Well With My Soul.  Wikipedia reports that the lyrics for Danny Boy were written by […]

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