Live at the Five and Dime Presents Online Performance of the Inspirational Chorale

Inspirational Chorale
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Inspirational Chorale

The third season of the "Live at the Five & Dime" concert series continues online with a performance of "O Holy Night," performed by the UA Inspirational Chorale, Juan Garcia (vocal soloist), members of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Mickel Gordon (piano), and Jeffrey Allen Murdock, conducting.

The concert can be accessed at any time.

The song, "O Holy Night," has a fascinating history. A pastor in the small French town of Roquemaure commissioned a song to celebrate the renovation of the church's organ. Placide Cappeau wrote the poem, and the text found its way to the opera singer, Emily Laurey, who was in Roquemaure while her civil-engineer husband oversaw the construction of a bridge nearby. Laurey recommended the Parisian opera composer Adolphe Adam set the poem to music. Adam did compose the music, and it was premiered in Roquemaure by Emily Laurey on Christmas Eve, 1847. The song quickly became so popular in France that it was referred to as "La Marseillaise religieuse."

In 1855, John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister, musician, and editor of a popular music journal translated the words into English.  The opening French line of "Minuit, chrétiens" [Midnight, Christians] was changed to "O Holy Night."  And Dwight, who was an abolitionist, imbued the lyrics of the third verse with an anti-slavery message:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.

On Christmas Eve, 1906, "O Holy Night" may have been the first song broadcast over the radio. Reginald Fessenden, who began his career working for Thomas Edison, made the discovery that he could transmit more than the dots and dashes of Morse Code. And he reports that on that 1906 Christmas Eve, he played the violin and sang "O Holy Night" to what must have been a stunned audience of sailors out at sea, far from their families for months on end.

Hopefully the UA Inspirational Chorale's performance of "O Holy Night," conducted by Jeffrey Murdock, will again help create a sense of connection, not because we are sailors out at sea, but because we continue to forgo our usual connections for months on end, to protect our community from the coronavirus.

The Live at the Five & Dime series is a collaboration between the UA Department of Music, the Walmart Museum, and Downtown Bentonville Inc. It is typically an outdoor series, but has moved online this season. There have been more than 50 concerts in the series.

To watch other 2020 concerts from this partnership, click on the events below:


Alan Gosman, associate professor
Department of Music


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