Sometimes I wake up with melodic ideas in my head. They dance around in my brain until I finally give up hope of doing anything else but write them down. The melody forming in my thoughts that morning was very similar in character to one of the Alfred Burt Carols. I thought I'd better look up that song's melody and lyric to make sure I was not plagiarizing in any way. (Good!) My melody was unique enough. But I really did not know which direction to take the lyric. It could have been a jolly secular Christmas song as easily as it could become a sacred Christmas Carol.
Enjoy this video of the music to "Ring! Glad Christmas Bells" -the Flute Quartet version. Other versions are SATB, and Solo for High and Low voices.
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Then came the brainstorming. I knew that I wanted to use the title "Ring! Glad Christmas Bells." That would give me plenty of reasons to create parts for handbells. My sister interviewed me as to my ideas for the structure of the piece. "You want an opening that sets the mood and a strong joyful statement. Right? But then, how about a contrasting section where the meat of the message is found?"
We discussed how sometimes songs for Advent (the time leading up to Christmas) have very little in the way of sure doctrine. Sometimes the lyrics are mostly fluff. The words might paint a picture of the silent night when Christ was born or Mary with the baby in the manger, or speak of shepherds and wisemen or even the animals in the stable, but never mention the glorious mission of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer - to save mankind from sin and to give hope of salvation for those who repent. The lyrics might talk of the angels delivering a joyous message, but not say what the message was.
So, after consulting the scriptures, talks by prophets, prayer and liberal use of a rhyming dictionary, I found the lyrics we thought suited this joyful melody but also contained sure doctrine about the Savior and His holy mission. So, there you have it - another "where" I get inspiration.