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Happy Holidays from UK Libraries!

As the nights turn frosty and the year draws to a close, Mariah Carey reminds us that nothing quite sets the holiday spirit into motion like the power of music. Luckily our Secret Santa left some delightful surprises for us this year. You guessed it: turn-of-the-century songbooks! Who knew that manuscripts made such great stocking stuffers? 

These songbooks are among our favorite new additions to our digital collections available through ExploreUK, and we’ve selected a couple classic tunes to kindle all the love and joy that the holidays inspire. So throw another yule log on the fire, warm up your voice with some do-re-mi’s, and join us in song. 

Published in 1886 by Ruebush, Kieffer, & Co. of Dayton, Virginia, The Royal Proclamation certainly brings a lot of joy to our world. It is one of hundreds of hymnals and songbooks being digitized as part of the Sounding Spirit project, one of several of UK Libraries’ project partnerships.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sounding Spirit is an initiative of Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship. The project will build a digital library of over 1,200 hymnals and songbooks published between 1850 and 1925 from across the US South. In 2020, UK Libraries and the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music were chosen to partner in the project, which has grown to include seven institutions across the United States. 

The Sounding Spirit digital library will expand the canon of American sacred music by including songbooks from a wide range of underrepresented communities not yet fully acknowledged as important contributors to American music history.

Among these is the Union Hymnal for Jewish Worship, published in 1897 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis at the press of William C. Popper & Co. in New York. The songbook contains Hebrew hymns, sabbath songs, and songs for Jewish holidays and festivals, including “Ma’oz Tzur,” or “Strong Rock (of my Salvation),” a traditional Hanukkah song written in the 12th century.

Many of the songbooks and hymnals being preserved through the project are too fragile for public use, but the Special Collection Research Center’s high standards for digitization ensure that these incredible artifacts will be accessible for generations to come. In every songbook, users have the opportunity to stumble upon little-known songs that might otherwise be lost to time. One of these is “Snow Flakes,” written by children’s poet Ida M. Budd, which can be found in only a handful of hymnals from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the marvelous Songs for Young People by E. O. Excell, published in 1897 by Curts & Jennings, Cincinnati.

Who’s ready for some hot cocoa?

From all of us at UK Libraries, may your holiday season be filled with kindness, compassion, and close connections with friends, family, and loved ones. We are eager for the new year ahead, and grateful for each and every Wildcat in our UK community.