The carol, "What is Christmas?" came out of a brainstorming session between graduate student Hodge and Frieda Gebert, associate professor of music at Campbellsville University, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Gebert said she remembered her parents telling her about being apart at Christmas during World War II while her father was overseas. They would listen to "I'll Be Home for Christmas" as "their song" to think of each other.
When Gebert learned of President Obama's announcement to deploy 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan, "my heart went out to their families."
"When he said that many of those would be leaving home before Christmas, I thought of my parents and the years they spent apart during World War II. I wanted to find a way for those back home to say, 'Christmas will be here when you get back.'"
After voicing her thoughts to Hodge, the prof said he "came through in a big way" by composing What is Christmas? The carol expresses a loving sentiment toward those who are serving their country and away from home and their loved ones for the holiday.
Hodge's carol was performed by the chamber choir during the university's annual "Christmas Tapestry" presentation. Gebert said the instant and enthusiastic standing ovation by the audience convinced them the carol conveyed the message they hoped it would.
Hodge said he and Gebert have been "flooded with people wanting to share their personal stories of how the song touched them. Dr. Gebert and I are so happy that we could bring a song to the public that could touch people in their own personal experiences."
The carol has been made into a music video after being recorded professionally at the Nashville studio of Campbellsville trustee Buzz Cason. It can be downloaded for free from Hodge's website, www.matthodge.com, with donations accepted by Campbellsville University for the "Carol For The Troops" project to cover various costs. The carol also is on YouTube, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Wf9lYdc50.
Ashley Zsedenyi is a staff writer at Campbellsville (Ky.) University. A podcast featuring Matt Hodge and Frieda Gebert can be heard at www.campbellsville.edu/voices.
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