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Advent 2009: “Christmas Night,” Inez R. Preece, Inez Jean Preece

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 30, 2009

Inez Robinson Preece (1899-1985) was born into a musical and missionary Mormon family (her father was a one-time president of the California mission, and her grandfather had served in the British Mission, as well as being a professor of music in London). She herself was a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for at least 10 years, and began publishing church music when she was about 20 years old. Inez Jean Preece is probably her daughter, and is probably still living. The only bit of trivia I have learned about her so far was that her 1943 photo was carried by a soldier in the 1999 LDS film “The Last Good War,” representing his sweetheart.

Click here to hear Phantom’s recording of the melody.

Christmas night, when the snow is gently falling, Christmas night, the stars shone all around,
On this night the voice of angels calling,“O’er all the earth let love abound.”
Christmas night, the heavens told a story, On this night, to shepherds on the ground,
Hallowed light, the angels song of glory,“Peace, good will in your hearts be found.”

Christmas night, holy night, With peace and joy our songs we sing –
On this night, holy light, Forever praise our Savior King!

Christmas night, God’s gift, his Son was giving, Christmas night, to mankind here on earth,
On this night we know real joy in living, Give, and our hearts feel the soul’s true worth.
Christmas night, sweet Christ-like spirit bringing, Glorious night! in radiant splendor shine!
Hallowed night, join heav’nly choirs in singing “Glory to God!” – wondrous song divine!

Christmas night, holy night, With peace and joy our songs we sing –
On this night, holy light, Forever praise our Savior King!



16 Comments »

  1. Am I hallucinating or is the chorus to this a combination of “Silent Night” and “Choose the Right”?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  2. I definitely heard a snippet from “Choose the Right” in there, too, Ardis. But I have to think that it was more of an accidental reference, and not on purpose. (The allusion to “Silent Night”, however, is most certainly on purpose, right?)

    Comment by Hunter — November 30, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  3. Oh my goodness! I was so hung up over the quote from Silent Night that I didn’t notice the Choose the Right bit until both of you mentioned it. It’s rather obvious and a bit puzzling. (Could someone really do that by accident?! And why would they do it if not by accident!?)

    Thanks for this latest, Ardis and Phantom.

    Comment by Researcher — November 30, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  4. “Silent Night” has to be on purpose … in part because the text would have allowed her to set the entire chorus to “Choose the Right.” Even if she were unconsciously channeling “Choose the Right,” she would have had to make a conscious break NOT to have used the entire line. Or so I imagine.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  5. I think it’s nothing new, this phenomenon where a riff from a pre-existing piece of music gets inadvertantly incorporated into a composition. FOr example, a couple of years ago, a lady in my Ward showed me the manuscript of a piece she had “composed” — I looked it over and immediately recognized the melody as a hymn tune composed years before by none other than Healey Wilan. I think the old tune had somehow got stuck in her head at some point, and so when it came time to transcribe a piece of music, there was that melody floating around for the grabbing, and it landed on her page.

    But, of course, composers and arrangers borrow on purpose, too. In the soundtrack to the Church’s film “Legacy”, the composer incorporates parts of Elgar’s highly dramatic “Nimrod” Variation. There, the composer borrows and builds on a pre-existing musical phrase to accentuate the drama associated with the Overland Trail. So, too, I think that the allusion to “Silent Night” above makes musical and textual sense and seems on purpose, too.

    But, like Researcher, I’m at a loss why Sister Preece would refer to “Choose the Right” in a Christmas song. I suppose it could have been her way of trying to remind the listener to be obedient so as to, um, claim the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . but I’m stretching, I think.

    In the end, I think a good composer would have realized that an allusion to “Choose the Right” would probably just leave people stratching their heads. (Kinda like it’s doing now.) And therefore, I’m sticking with my assumption that the reference is a sort of accident in the same vein as occurred with the sister in my Ward.

    Comment by Hunter — November 30, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  6. Ardis, I don’t get what you mean by this:

    “Silent Night” has to be on purpose … in part because the text would have allowed her to set the entire chorus to “Choose the Right.”

    I’m sure you’re right, it’s just that it’s still too early for my brain on this post-holiday Monday morning to get it. Sorry.

    Comment by Hunter — November 30, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  7. Since “Choose the Right” is on my Index Librorum Prohibitorum, I don’t think I’ll be singing this anytime soon!

    Did she stick that line in there on purpose? She must have. And it’s dreadful.

    Not that I’m opinionated or anything. :-)

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  8. Hunter, I just mean that since you could sing the whole line to the tune of “Choose the Right” (since “Christmas night, holy light” has the same rhythm as “Choose the right, choose the right”), I would expect Inez to have simply borrowed the entire line if she wasn’t aware that she was mimicking the CTR song (kind of like the ward member you refer to). That she didn’t borrow the whole thing makes me think that her modification was deliberate, and that she was aware that she was copying.

    But your remark about us being left scratching our heads is certainly applicable — who knows what she was thinking?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — November 30, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  9. my Index Librorum Prohibitorum

    One of these days we’re going to have to quiz Mark B. as to which three songs in the hymnbook he would allow to be sung in his perfect world. :)

    It seems like the general consensus on “Christmas Night” is to keep looking. (The last women’s trio was much better, as far as I’m concerned.)

    Comment by Researcher — November 30, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  10. Yeah, I agree, Researcher, that in the end, it’s not that great, and that the Reske piece is much better. I’ve printed it out for FHE tonight.

    (Count me as another one who wants to see Mark B.’s list of “approved” hymns. No worries, though — I have a list of verboten hymns, too. Don’t we all?)

    Comment by Hunter — November 30, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  11. I’ve been trying to find out more about Willy Reske, by the way. Other than his middle name (Julius), the CHL catalog doesn’t offer much help. I now know the names of his family (wife Martha, daughter Ingeborg — born in Germany — and daughter Ruth — born in Brooklyn — and some details of immigration and citizenship, via Ancestry.com, but it seems that nothing really personal is available. But I’ve liked everything associated with Reske so far. He needs to be remembered.

    Maybe if we plead enough, Mark B. would submit a guest post on his hymn lists, both allowed and forbidden. That could be a whole lotta fun.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  12. Well, since Researcher has kindly allowed me to list all three hymns that I approve of, it shouldn’t take long to write that guest post. :-)

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  13. Inez Jean Preece is probably her daughter, and is probably still living.

    My limited poking around also leads me to believe that IJP is IRP’s daughter and that IJP is alive.

    Comment by Justin — December 1, 2009 @ 11:18 am

  14. Thanks for looking, and confirming (to some extent) my assumption, Justin. If there had been evidence otherwise, I have no doubt you would have found it!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 1, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  15. Indeed, Inez jean Preece (she goes by Jean or Jeannie) IS alive. She married Bill Little. Jean and Bill live in Maple Ridge, BC Canada. She is my grandmother-in-law. She still composes music and loves it!

    Comment by Lezlie Brady — December 30, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  16. Lezlie — Thanks for that confirmation! If you have the chance, please let her know that she was part of our Christmas celebration.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 30, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

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