There’s A Song In The Air – The Christmas Carol Whose Melody Was Written 30 Years After Its Lyrics

Josiah Holland was a photographer who left his craft to study medicine. After becoming a doctor, he once again left his vocation to pursue his love of literature and writing. Holland wrote articles for publications, then became a novelist and wrote poetry on the side. Being a strong and well known Christian, in 1874 Holland was asked to compose a poem for an annual Sunday School Journal. As a result, he penned a poem based on the first Christmas titled There’s A Song In The Air:

There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!

There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry.

And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,

For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King.

The poem probably would have been forgotten had Holland not decided to include it in a collection of his poetry originally titled Complete Poetical Writings. 

Thirty years later, in the summer of 1904, Karl Harrington was hot. Out of all of the music directors and composers in Methodist Churches everywhere, he had been selected to compile the songs for a new Methodist Hymnal. Even though he had been educated at multiple schools in both the United States and Europe and was a music professor at Wesley University, he felt overwhelmed by the task. Whenever the task of hymnal compilation became overwhelming, Harrington would often escape from his work by reading a book of poetry by one of his favorite authors, Josiah Holland. The second poem he read was titled There’s A Song In The Air. 

The poem partnered the sweetness of a mother and her newborn child with the grandeur of the life mission of Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Holland sat down at an organ with the poetry book. He read the poem aloud and composed a simple, yet beautiful melody to accompany the “lyrics.” In its completed version, There’s A Song In The Air was published in 1905 in the new Methodist Hymnal. 

Click Here to hear There’s A Song In The Air by New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu

*Image courtesy of Paul Arky