However, Adolphe Adam is most remembered for his "Cantique de Noel." I did not know the story of how he came to write this song. In a nutshell, this is the gist of the story. In 1847, in southern France, there was a church that had an organ needing refurbishing. The organ was to be ready for debut on Christmas Eve. So the priests asked a soprano in town to ask her friend, a renowned musician, to ask Adophe Adam, his friend, to write a new piece for the midnight mass. Adam was known as the "go to" composer who could take commissions and fulfill them in a timely manner. If you needed an opera in a few months, you'd call Adolphe Adam. A ballet in three weeks? No problem. Call Adolphe Adam.
And so, they did just that. They asked Adolphe Adam to create a beautiful Christmas cantique or song for their special celebration. It was so well received, that soon it was being sung not just as a solo, but by many other groups in nearby towns in France. Within a few years, it was being translated and sung in other countries and even made its way across the pond. In America, we sing it as "O Holy Night."
What was so entertaining in Dr. Hinckley's class was how he showed clips of how singers over the years have "made it their own." (Singers tend to do that, whether it is a good idea or not.) He explained how many singers have taken great liberties with the music, especially the ending. He showed renditions by singers known in quite differing genres - opera, pop, rock, hip hop, and even country. He played a montage of singers holding the high note fermata in progressively higher and higher keys until he got to the show down between operatic powerhouse Luciano Pavarotti and pop diva Mariah Carey singing an unbelievably high note.
As funny as that was to see so many simply outrageous performances, it was sad, too. Unfortunately, this cantique has become so ubiquitous that many performers make it ridiculous. Dr. Hinckley hoped that by sharing his story, Adolphe Adam and his music might be remembered and get the respect they deserve. I enjoyed how in closing the lecture, Dr. Hinckley played "Cantique de Noel" performed by a church choir who indeed performed it with respect and deep spiritual conviction. Those are the performances I enjoy the most!