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O Holy Night (Cantique de Noël)


Cello (or violin) and piano, with optional cello 2 or organ.
The original 1853 version, before it became "Ave Maria"

Complete Score mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml    2011-02-10
Violin mus  pdf    xml  
Cello mus  pdf    xml  
Cello 2 mus  pdf    xml  
Organ mus  pdf    xml  
Piano mus  pdf    xml  

Composer: Adolphe Adam

Title: "O Holy Night" ("Cantique de Noël)"

Lyrics: Placide Cappeau


Can you remember the first time you heard "O Holy Night"?  I heard the song first when my high school chorus sang it in assembly.  I was struck by the power and majesty of the work.  Your experience with this great Christmas hymn probably was similar.

Adolphe Adam (1803-1856)




Cantique de Noël
Words by Placide Cappeau

O Holy Night
Translated by John Sullivan Dwight

1 Mi-nuit, chré-tiens! c'est l'heu-re so-len-nelle,
Où l'hom-me Dieu des-cen-dit jus-qu'à nous
Pour ef-fa-cer la tache o-ri-gi-nelle,
Et de son Père ar-rê-ter le cour-roux.
Le monde en-tier tres-sail-le d'es-pé-ran-ce,
A cet-te nuit qui lui donne un Sau-veur!
Peuple, à ge-noux, At-tends ta dé-liv-ran-ce;
No-ël! No-ël! Voi-ci le Ré-demp-teur!
No-ël! No-ël! Voi-ci le Ré-demp-teur!

O holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth,
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn,
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices
O night divine! O night when Christ was born,
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

2 De no-tre foi que la lu-mière ar-den-te
Nous gui-de tous au ber-ceau de l'en-fant,
Comme au-tre-fois une é-toi-le bril-lante
Y con-dui-sit les chefs de l'O-ri-ent.
Le Roi des rois nait dans une hum-ble crè-che;
Puis-sants du jour, fiers de vo-tre gran-deur,
A votre or-gueil c'est de là qu'un Dieu prêche:
Cour-bez vos fronts de-vant le Ré-demp-teur,
Cour-bez vos fronts de-vant le Ré-demp-teur.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand,
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend,
He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger;
Behold your King! before the lowly bend,
Behold your King! your King! before Him bend.

3 Le Ré-demp-teur[alt.: Le Dieu Sauveur] a bri-sé toute en-tra-ve;
La terre est libre et le ciel est ou-vert.
Il voit un frère où n'é-tait qu'un es-cla-ve;
L'a-mour u-nit ceux qu'en-chai-nait le fer!
Qui lui di-ra no-tre re-con-nais-san-ce?
C'est pour nous tous qu'il nait, qu'il souffre et meurt;
Peu-ple, de-bout! Chan-te ta dé-liv-ran-ce;
No-ël! No-ël! Chan-tons le Ré-demp-teur,
No-ël! No-ël! Chan-tons le Ré-demp-teur.

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.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his Holy name,
Christ is the Lord, then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory, ever more proclaim,
His power and glory, ever more proclaim


John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893) is best-known today as the author (in 1855) of the English translation of the great Christmas carol, "Cantique de Noël" ( "O Holy Night").  French composer Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856) wrote the music for the song in 1847, as a setting for the poem "Minuit, Chretiens" ("Midnight, Christians") by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877). 

A fascinating footnote in music history is the fact that "Cantique de Noël" was suppressed for many years in France; the song was deemed unsuitable for performance in churches.  Why?  Because its composer, Adam, was a Jew, and its lyricist, Cappeau, was a socialist! 

John Sullivan Dwight, an abolitionist, was attracted to "Cantique de Noël" in part because of its words on slavery:

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.

Dwight's free translation of these lines is as follows:

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.


"O Holy Night" (2008, July 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:52, July 16, 2008, from

"Placide Cappeau" (2008, May 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:22, July 16, 2008, from

Adam, Adolphe, "Extra Supplement: O Holy Night", with English words by John Sullivan Dwight, The Musical Times, v. 51, No. 814 (Dec 1, 1910), published by Musical Times Publications, Ltd., pp. 1-12.  Available online in JSTOR (subscription required).  [An arrangement of "O Holy Night" for organ, chorus, and soloist.]

Cincinnati opera festival in the great Music Hall, February 13-18, 1882..., Shillito, John and Co., Cincinnati, 1882, in books.google.com. [Page 21 has text of John Sullivan Dwight’s translation as part of printed concert program notes for a performance by a singer (“Signor Nicolini”) acompanied by piano with organ obligato.]

Havard de la Montagne, Denis, "Le cantique de Noël d'Adolphe Adam", webpage (in French) in the Musica et Memoria website, visited March, 2011.  [History of the song, and a score of the song in C major for voice and piano, published in Paris, circa 1880.]

Havard de la Montagne, Denis, "Minuit, Chretiens, une Partition d'Adolphe Adam", webpage (in French) in the Musica et Memoria website, visited March, 2011.  [Excellent biographical article about Adolphe Adam.]

Kurz, Louis, Répertoire musical pour les écoles, v. 3, Librairie de la Suisse Romande, Paris, 1867, pp. 257-263, books.google.com. [French lyric. Choral SATB version in D flat major, mi-mi-so-so beginning. Three verses are each written out, with some changes in the melody from verse to verse.]

Lester, Meera, Why Does Santa Wear Red...and 100 Other Christmas Curiousities, Adams Media, 2007 (256 pages).  [See p. 112 for the story of "O Holy Night".]

Miel, Charles Francis Bonaventure, ed. Manuel de prières et de cantiques à l'usage de l'Église épiscopale française du Saint Sauveur, Philadelphie (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Collins, 1877 (164 pages), books.google.com  [See p. 109 for "Minuit Chretiens".]

"Office de Tourisme de Roquemaure - Histoire/Patrimoine", webpage in the website of the Office of Tourism, Roquemaure, France.  [Gives history in French of "Minuit, Chrétiens".  An English version is available on the same website, but the story in English differs in several details from that in French.]

Robinson, David, "John Sullivan Dwight", biographical article in the Unitarian-Universalist Association website.

Weir, Albert E., The Book of a Thousand Songs, Carl Fischer, New York, 1918, (535 pages).  [Page 101 has a song labeled "Christmas Song" by A. Adam.  It is a 4-part arrangement of "O Holy Night" in E flat major with mi-mi-la-so opening, and unfamiliar words, in English.]





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