Christmas from Another World: The Ancient Music of Kemper Crabb

L.P Hartly famously said, “The past is another country; they do things differently there.” Christmas is the most important holiday in the Western World, but how was it celebrated a thousand years ago – in Hartly’s “other country?” Kemper Crabb opens the book of time and turns the pages back a thousand years with his wholly unique music, complete with melodies and lyrics – and even languages – from a thousand years ago. If you want to get a glimpse of the past, Kemper Crabb is your audio optometrist.

One of the oldest Christmas songs noted in world history is “Downe in Yon Forrest.” Kemper records a wonderful rendition of this mysterious hymn in his excellent album and video special Downe in Yon Forrest: Christmas from the Middle Ages. The melody for this one song is well over five hundred years old.

But Kemper doesn’t simply record ancient melodies. He also helps us understand the bygone origins of our own language: English. In an excellent track from his album Live from the Rivendell Café entitled, “Praises in the Old Tongue,” Kemper’s melodious and humble voice sings an ancient hymn in Old English. The lyrics are edifying regarding the culture and worldview of medieval England. In the song, God is called “All-Father” and the lyricist glorifies God’s divine ordering of the world, emphasizing the singer’s place in God’s ordered universe.

Then there is Kemper’s groundbreaking first album: The Vigil. In this record Kemper seeks to recreate a Crusader’s vigil, when a crusading knight sought to purify himself before embarking on his crusade. The lyrics illuminate the mindset of a medieval knight:

Waiting for flame in the Eye of Night

I am the fuel for Your fire

Light calls ever unto Light

Make me a fleshen pyre

Touch my lips with the altaring coal

Leave your shining upon my soul

Zion shall ever be my goal –

Zion the telling of Light

A crusader partaking in a vigil. Rudolph Stanley-Brown Entry Card to 1926 May Show. Cleveland Museum of Art May Show Records, Cleveland Museum of Art Archives.

While Kemper’s work is important for anyone interested in Western history, nothing stands out quite so much as his Christmas music. Melding both beauty and historical accuracy, Crabb’s Christmas music seems like something from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, rather than tunes from Crabb’s native state of Texas. With Kemper Crabb, you’ll experience Christmas like you never have before – in a way only Kemper can deliver. The only problem with Kemper’s Christmas music is you can only hear it for the first time once. In the links below, you’ll find Crabb’s Christmas concert video special available on YouTube for free for a limited time. I highly suggest you grab a drink and let Kemper take you on trip to another world.

You can find more information about Kemper Crabb and his band Mysterium at the following websites:

Moreover, I encourage anyone reading this to view Kemper’s excellent PBS special for free at the following link:

Youtube video link

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