Fri | Dec 13, 2019

‘Sing De Chorus, Clap Yuh Han’ - A J’can celebration of Christ’s birth

Published:Monday | December 2, 2019 | 12:17 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
The late Noel Dexter.
The late Noel Dexter.

Around the world, an integral part of the Christmas experience is the singing of hymns, which are specially crafted to celebrate the holiness and festivity of the Yuletide season. History records that the first known Christmas hymns can be traced to 4th-century Rome and that the songs, now known specifically as carols, were originally sung communally during celebrations like harvest tide, as well as Christmas. It was only later that people began singing carols in church, and they became specifically associated with Christmas.

Over the decades, carols have depicted dreams of the much-longed-for ‘white Christmas’ filled with images of the red-nosed reindeer; kids frolicking in the snow; chestnuts roasting on an open fire; and a bearded, fat man, dressed in red, sliding down a chimney to drop off gifts in the dead of the night. However, Christmas carols have taken on a more cultural tone and, in Jamaica, there are carols written and sung in Jamaican Patois, and even Christmas songs done on dancehall ‘riddims’ .

The late, great Jamaican musician and composer Noel Dexter made a lasting contribution to the Caribbean’s body of Christmas carols with the song Sing De Chorus, Clap Yuh Han.

A director of music at UWI, Mona, for some 39 years, and “the gentle, but formidable force of nature behind the University Singers”, Dexter wrote this song in 1977 for the choristers.

LIFE OF ITS OWN

It was the very first Christmas song that he wrote and since then, Sing De Chorus has taken on a life of its own, being sung by various choirs across the globe each Christmas. Undoubtedly, part of the charm of this song is the action, which is written into the introductory lines: “Sing de chorus, clap your hand” is swiftly followed by “clap clap”, as the choir (and oftentimes the audience) clap in rhythm, and easily continue to sing the rest of the song.

Sing De Chorus is a true celebration of the birth of Jesus, with a distinct Caribbean flavour, in which the pan and the conga drums are essential to the rhythm of this well-known story. The religious message of the Yuletide season is encapsulated in the verses which explore themes of love, hope and peace, mingled with the warmth of the Caribbean.

The lyrics are as follows:

Sing de chorus, clap yuh han’ Beat de conga, play de pan Spread de news to all the land That Jesus is born Jesus de Saviour is born

Do you know de story How de King of glory Came to earth a baby born in a manger But de worl’ then did not know That ’twas God on earth below

And treat the Son of God on earth like a stranger. O great God above us Truly, you do love us Your cords of love around us no one can sever May we always do your loving heart

Sing your praise and glorify you forever. Do you know de story How de King of Glory Came to earth a baby born in a manger But de worl’ then did not know That ’twas God on earth below And treat the Son of God on earth like a stranger.