STJ#1036, Calypso Alleluia

Happy Christmas Eve – let’s sing an Alleluia!

A number of years ago, Tom Benjamin (whose work graces many pages of both hymnals) put out a collection of 62 Responses, Benedictions, Introits, and Chalice Lighting Songs, which add music to many elements we think of as spoken. Some are short, some are longer. Some are easy for congregations to pick up, some are great for choirs or soloists. Much like the hymnals, in fact.

There are a number of alleluias by Tom in his collection (although my favorite piece of his is a complex choral Alleluia); some, like this one, is written to be a round or canon. Tom offers us many different rhythms from a wide range of musical genres – like this Calypso one, which has nothing to do with the Greek goddess and everything to do with the blending of African and South American sounds throughout the Caribbean islands.

Now I’ll be honest: this one isn’t my favorite of the short congregational alleluias, but is the favorite of many, and I often hear it used. With its syncopated rhythms evocative of the Afro-Caribbean sound, it begs you to sway and dance – especially if you add the suggested drum, claves, and shaker. (In my dreams, there’s enough money to issue every congregation a decent box of hand drums, steel drums, and other percussion instruments. And maybe some kazoos for good measure.)

Alleluia, sing alleluia!
Sing Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Sing alleluia, sing alleluia.

Blessed be, sing blessed be!
Sing blessed be, blessed be, blessed be.
Sing blessed be, sing blessed be.

And I love that the lyrics are expansive – not just alleluia, but blessed be, words that expand our theological praises.

It’s certainly not a song I’d have expected to sing on Christmas Eve, but then when has anything in this practice gone according to the calendar?