Home Worship Planning Music Resources “Still, Still, Still”

“Still, Still, Still”

TITLE:"Still, Still, Still"
AUTHOR: Traditional Austrian carol
TUNE: STILL, STILL, STILL
COMPOSER: Anonymous, arr. Dean McIntyre
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3066
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:6-7
TOPIC: angels, Christ's birth, dreams, guard/guardian, King, lullaby, manger, Mary, still/stillness

Background

The origins of this beautiful Weihnactslied (Christmas song) are likely lost to history. The Answers.com website claims the song is "based on an 1819 melody by Süss from the Salzburger Volkslieder, with the original words, slightly changed over time and location, by G. Götsch," although there is no documentation for this attribution.

Soloists and choirs have long enjoyed singing published arrangements of this carol, making it familiar to many congregations. There are links to four videos of different versions below under Sources. Most performances of this carol treat it quietly, gently, as a lullaby.

Publication in Worship & Song marks the first appearance of this carol in our hymnals and songbooks.

Music

The use of the rising two-note motives in the melody arranged in a sequentially descending pattern may depict the slow rocking motion of a cradle, entirely appropriate to a lullaby. The first five notes outline the notes of the tonic D major harmony and fill out the entire interval of an octave.

The song is quite simple harmonically, consisting of only the primary chords of D, G and A7. The first two beats of measures three and eleven may be played as either a G or an E minor chord.

The form of this simple hymn is ABBA, with the opening phrase repeated exactly at the end and the second phrase repeated exactly as the third.

Words

The quiet, gentle character of the music is duplicated in the text. The opening three words "Still" immediately set the context and mood, continued by stanza two's "Dream, dream, dream" and the German stanza three's "Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf" ("Sleep, sleep, sleep").

Stanza one paints the picture of that first Christmas night, with Mary holding the newborn Babe in her arms, probably rocking back and forth, protecting him from the cold night air.

Stanza two continues the Christmas story with the sleeping Jesus, guarded by angels and watched over by Mary.

Stanza three's German may be literally translated (not a performance translation) as: Sleep, sleep, sleep, my dear babe, sleep. The angels jubilate beautifully, by the manger making music. Sleep, sleep, sleep, my dear babe, sleep."

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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