Podcast review: “Hark! The Stories Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols”

If you're on the search for Christmas content, we suggest giving the podcast "Hark! The Stories Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols" a try.

Hosted by Maggi Van Dorn

As a kid, I was convinced the hymn “Angels We Have Heard on High” included the lyrics “alka seltzer day-o” instead of  “… in Excelsis Deo.” And I sang ’em LOUD. Mom had to explain this was one reason the choir director hated to see me coming. And no, the lyrics weren’t about my Aunt Gloria.

But that hymn was the one I sang at the top of my voice – incorrect lyrics, the long run of “ohhhh-oh-oh-oh-oh–ohhhhs” – because the idea of being an angel singing in the heavens was a joyful thought.

Christmas and Advent hymns can get lost in the rush, but if you’ve ever been curious about the history and development of some of the hymns and musical sounds of the season, check out the podcast “Hark! The Stories Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols.” Hosted by Maggi Van Dorn (who readily admits she has no musical training, she simply loves music) and produced by Jesuit-owned America Media, this seasonal podcast explores one hymn weekly for the four weeks of Advent and also has bonus episodes. Van Dorn and her guests discuss the political and cultural moments that existed around the hymns, and they explore the ways some of these tunes have been absorbed into the mainstream soundtrack. “Carol of the Bells” is one such, brought to prominence by the uber-energetic Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

“Hark” will begin its 2023 season on November 26, but there are 10 episodes in the queue from the past two Advents, and they’re easy listening — perfect for a commute or a quiet evening by the fire.