Category Archives: Band

Reflections on “Good Christian Men Rejoice”

“What Child” is a compilation of traditional Christmas hymns and carols that we have arranged over the years around our synth rock sound. In fact , the first time By the Mane played together, we performed some of these arrangements. In the process of researching and arranging the hymns, we came to realize that they have a much deeper and richer history than we realized, and we wanted to share some of what we found.

History

The track with the oldest and strangest history by far, is “Good Christian Men”.  The lyrics as we recorded them were adapted from those written in the 19th century by John Mason Neale (lyricist of “Good King Wenceslas” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel”).  Neale, an Anglican Protestant with an affinity for Roman Catholic traditions (see Oxford Movement), was presented with a copy of the Piae Cantiones, a 16th collection of century carols and religious songs, by the British ambassador to Sweden, and used the 14th century carol In Dulci Jubilo (“In Sweet Rejoicing”) for the melody and the basis of his translation.  In Dulci Jubilo is itself notable in that it is sung partially in Latin, and partially in the vernacular (German, in some instances, and Swedish in the source that J. M. Neale used).

In Dulci Jubilo from the Piae Cantiones
In Dulci Jubilo from the Piae Cantiones

Musical Mistakes

The hymn appears in many hymnals as Neale translated it, with a proclamation of “Joy, Joy” or “News, News” right in the middle of the verse that interrupts the verse’s rhythmic flow and feel.  It turns out that Neale misinterpreted the notation, transcribing two minims (half notes) as two breves (double whole notes).  When you listen to our version, you can hear why we chose not to record these lyrics.

Our Take

Lyrically speaking, the song can sound antiquated to our ears. “Good Christian Men” appears biased, even sexist.  Our understanding of the text as we recorded it is that it encourages all Christians, both women and men, to rejoice in the significance of Christmas.  The song specifies Christians, not to exclude others, but because they are the ones who would most likely rejoice in the news of the birth of the Savior.  As Christians believe that Jesus came to offer himself as a living sacrifice for the sins of all who believe, it was necessary that he became flesh and blood first.  Christmas, therefore, is the celebration of the incarnation, the flesh-becoming of God’s Son, Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi (“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”).  John 1:29 As the song says, “Now you hear of endless bliss/Jesus Christ was born for this/He has opened Heaven’s door/And man is blessed forevermore.”

Musically speaking, the band came up with a rather gritty and cacophonous take on the song, framing the good news of Jesus’ birth against a world that sometimes gives us anything but a reason to rejoice.  Check out the song below to hear what we mean (and listen for the synth at the end called the “MicroBrute” to hear the knob-tweaked feral cries that earn it its name).

Lyrics

Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Listen now to what we say
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now you hear of endless bliss
Jesus Christ was born for this
He has opened the Heaven’s door
And man is blessed evermore
Christ was born for this
Christ was born for this

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
You don’t need to fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save

It’s about Jesus

It’s Christmas. It’s a beautiful and magical time in so many ways, but it’s more dense with subtle and not-so-subtle distractions than any other season. There are so many good things about Christmas that we sometimes can loose track of the best thing.

If, as a band, we could have one Christmas wish, it would be that we could all find both the desire and the discipline to make Jesus the central theme of our celebration. Family and gifts are amazing and beautiful things. Sharing meals with people that we work and play with, and keeping traditions that keep us grounded are activities that we should fully embrace.

The search for the answer to the question, “What Child is This?” should be our source of childlike wonder. Consider the tragedy of a baby born in a dirty barn, or the humility of these shepherds as the first visitor. The struggle that Joseph battled with when discovering Mary’s pregnancy. No one expected God to enter the world in this way. I would ask of you, this Christmas, to take a fresh look at the person of Jesus. Wonder at this God/baby that was born to save us, and how this humble birth was the perfect start to a humble life that would continue to defy expectations, challenge norms, and question authority.

Ask yourself this Christmas, “What Child?” And give yourself room to wonder at the answer.

Christmas Cards on sale now

We’re a week away from introducing our Christmas EP! It’s an exciting time for us as it will be the first real chance for people to be exposed to our sound.

In preparation for producing and duplicating and distributing an album,  there are costs involved. We’re trying to manage those and are looking for creative ways to do so.

When I was designing the album cover I came up with a design that really captured the heart of what we were trying to do with this record, and I thought it was cool enough to turn into a Christmas Card that maybe some other people might like as well. The profit from these cards will allow us to invest back into the band and get some equipment that will help us out.

We are not a charity. If you haven’t thought about giving to the truly needy in this holiday season we would encourage you to do that.

That said, you were probably going to buy Christmas cards anyway, so why not buy ours and say, “Merry Christmas,” in a unique and memorable way while you’re at it!

What Child? a Christmas Album

Be watching for the new By The Mane Christmas album out the first week of December! We’re excited to make our first release on the subject or Christmas.

We’re in the studio as we speak (see the photo above of me recording guitars for the album), and we will be working feverishly this month to get everything ready. We’ll give you plenty of updates as the album progresses. Some sneak peaks at the album cover design and maybe we’ll put together a silly video of us in the studio.

Why a Christmas Album?

Christmas is both a wonderful and challenging time of year. It’s a time that is supposed to be all about Jesus, but when it comes down to it, it’s really hard to keep Him the focus. There are so many distractions around us, between the family, the presents, and the food! We need that constant reminder; what child? Oh, yeah… that Child! We’re hoping this album will be that for you!

By the Mane’s First Show – X-fest NW 2013

X-Fest Sans Drummer

our show at x-fest and no drummer meme

For our first concert is coming up at X-Fest Northwest 2013. XFEST NorthWest is an annual rock festival. It’s nonprofit, non-corporate and nondenominational. Our drummer Kyler can’t make it so so it’s going to be just Will and I for this one. Will has been working tirelessly to program the drums in his absence.
image

Firsts

Along with it being our first show, there a few other firsts for us.

  1. First live show with no drummer (hopefully the last)
  2. New Sound (we’ve been working hard to dial it in… it’s really cool!)
  3. Debut of Will’s new song
  4. My first time as a lead singer (well, sort of, leading worship is not really the same thing, though)
  5. Brand new light show
  6. New Guitar??? doubt it…
  7. BRAND NEW CROWD!

I’m most excited about #5! I have no idea what to expect, but I’m excited about it whatever it is! Come check us out, Friday night August 30th at 9:30pm.

What By the Mane Means

A band name is often a difficult thing to come up with. It has to strike the balance of being meaningful, catchy, provocative and cool all at the same time. I’ve had an easier time coming up with names for my kids than thinking of band names.

By the Mane was different, though.

I heard the song, “Like a Lion” by Daniel Bashta and it reminded me of something about God that is sometimes forgotten in our worship.  God is not the white bearded old man in a distant mansion or a genie waiting to grant our wishes. A better comparison is that of a beautiful yet wild, and incredibly powerful beast. He’s not human, he may not even be friendly as we define friendly, but that’s what makes his love so amazing. It’s unlike anything else we could ever know. So many songs try to make God’s love out to be a familiar accessible of love, but Bashta went the other direction and quenched a thirst that I forgot that I had. A thirst for a God that was bigger than me. I couldn’t help but think of Aslan, and Mr. Beaver’s response to Lucy when she asks if Aslan is safe.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

This might be one of the most overused C.S. Lewis quotes of all times, but I can’t help but reference it. We–like Old Testament Israel who wanted a human king–want to a tame God.

Why “By the Mane?”

By the Mane is a name that represents our desire to understand God as that wild, unpredictable being that is so far beyond our understanding it causes us to be on our guard–even fearful–around him.  By the Mane means that we come to him on his terms. It’s a reminder that letting go is not an option, and we need to approach life with the perspective of living By the Mane! The best thing we can do is grab on for dear life, not because He’s safe…because He’s good!