As we approached the Christmas season, a friend on a forum sent me a YouTube link that indeed made my day. When I clicked it, one of the first things I saw was the title: Banjos We Have Heard On High. Seeing that, I was expecting just a cheap parody of Angels We Have Heard On High, but I had a very pleasant surprise after the page was loaded.
Once harmonious voices in a cappella gracefully introduced the song, the joyous strains of banjos set the mood as Jed Marum and Lonestar Stout highlighted the Christmas story in song. I invite you to go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMXCsLFi5o4 and listen for yourself..
For some, a pipe organ or at least subdued guitar playing would be more fitting to express the loving merciful intervention of Almighty God in preparing our redemption. However, as I listened to the music I had to think of how the hard working shepherds with their hearts yearning for the Messiah found tremendous joy in the angelic announcement. They had great joy, so, “… they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16 AV) Banjo music brings the thoughts of joy and happiness to my mind. I can easily see the shepherds rushing to Bethlehem as Banjos We Have Heard On High rolls along in my hearing.
The happiness continues as the song invites all to share in the joy of the angels, shepherds and Magi who welcomed Christ the King. The banjo playing quickens to mind and heart the excitement of the offer of new life as the lively strains permeate the piece.
I’m also pleased with this piece because it is not dependent upon past Christmas melodies. I have also written a few songs, and when it comes to Christmas music my mind seems to borrow from musical phrases of known tunes. To the best of my knowledge, this is not so with Jed Marum’s Banjos We Have Heard On High.
From the time the song was uploaded to YouTube in early October 2008, numerous positive comments have been posted to the page. With its down-to-earth strains, it has apparently caught the attention of those who might have become tired of the usual Christmas musical fare.
If some question its reverence, I would respectfully ask they consider Psalm 150. The banjo is not specifically mentioned there, but it might be mentioned in ancient form by a different name. For this, please see at least the first paragraph of Thumbnail History of the Banjo by Bill Reese. So I have little doubt that after spreading the good news of the Advent, upon returning to their flocks perhaps some of the shepherds picked up string instruments and made joyous praise unto God. That thought is quite reasonable. The sweet psalmist of Israel, David, was a skillful harp player and was originally a shepherd.
The song appears currently in Marum’s CD album, Ain’t No Goin’ Back. If the Lord tarries and permits me to live in my flesh, I really hope that one Christmas season I will be in a store somewhere and hear Banjos We Have Heard On High. It would be great if the human powers that be in music will see the merit in this inspirational song.