SongNotes Holy City and Bells of St. Mary’s, Jamie and Michael

Jamie O'Reilly and Michael P. Smith

Listen here to the duet of Holy City and Bells of St. Mary’s here. 

Songs of a Catholic Childhood, 2012
Jamie and Michael’s last full album collaboration features the Songs you remember in a heartfelt, liberating musical journey.  Hear this personal and profound musical portrait of the Catholic America of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. See the recording page:

Jamie O’Reilly

The Holy City and Bells of St. Mary’s
I first heard this jubilant anthem when my parents sang it in their church choir as the recessional song
on Palm Sunday. I got caught up in it when I heard Jeanette McDonald sing it in the film San Francisco, with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. It figures prominently in Joyce’s Ulysses,
(it was a favorite of his). I feature it in my show In Old Chicago.

People who know the work of my late musical partner Michael Smith, know his song I Brought My Father With Me in which he sings, ‘And he sang Bells of St. Mary’s and he sounded just like Bing.’

The pairing of these two songs – so pertinent in our childhoods – and our ability to sing in the style of these popular singers, was an obvious choice for our show and recording Songs of a Catholic Childhood. Michael’s crooning like Bing still does me in.

I always think of my mother when I sing Holy City. Born on Good Friday, with a belief in the renewal of spirit that Easter and spring offered, she made the holy days sing.

The Holy City
Last night, I lay a-sleeping, there came a dream so fair
I stood in old Jerusalem, beside the temple there
I heard the children singing and ever as they sang
Me thought the voice of angels from heaven, in answer rang
Me thought the voice of angels from heaven, in answer rang
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing
Hosanna, in the highest, Hosanna to the king
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, sing for the night is o’er
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore

The Holy City is a religious Victorian ballad dating from 1892, with music by Michael Maybrick writing under the alias Stephen Adams, with lyrics by Frederic Weatherly. It gained renewed popularity when it was sung by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 hit film San Francisco.

Bells of St. Mary’s
Ah, hear they are calling
The young loves, the true loves
Who come from the sea
And so my beloved
When red leaves are falling
The love bells shall ring out, ring out
For you and me

The music was written by A. Emmett Adams, the lyrics by Douglas Furber, following a visit to St. Mary’s Church, Southampton, England. It was sung by Bing Crosby in the film of its name.