University of Otago emeritus professor of English Colin
Gibson. Photo by ODT files.
Colin Gibson, a man who has penned his fair share of
Christmas carols, says it's important to add a fresh twist to
An emeritus professor of English at the University of Otago,
Prof Gibson has written and taught in the area of church
music for more than 30 years, and his hymns have been printed
in more than 40 international hymn books.
Made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002 for
his contribution to music, Prof Gibson has been involved in
choral singing for more than 50 years, and has composed both
music and text for New Zealand-themed yuletide offerings.
He might often start with typical biblical narratives (''the
givens such as the star, the angels, the three wise men and
shepherds who turn up ...''), but prefers to offer a new
''There are an awful lot of carols that just repeat the same
themes endlessly,'' he says.
For instance, he suggests the image of Baby Jesus in the
manger could be framed in a different light.
''Look at the social implications of a baby stuck in a
backyard shed because there is no room anywhere, which
parallels the fate of many children elsewhere.''
A good example of a New Zealand-flavoured carol is Mr
Gibson's There's Straw In the Manger, which includes
The register's ringing
And shop choirs are singing;
It's bargains galore in the folly of love.
It's midsummer madness,
And every day badness:
The usual scene for the coming of Christ.
''That is trying to tap into what is the real Christmas for
New Zealanders,'' he explains.
''I'm interested in what Christmas means to us as a
community. I think we do go stark raving bonkers at this time
''One of the great Christian writers, St Paul, said it was
crazy for God to send down a baby. That's where the idea of
folly comes from. I think we behave with a great deal of
folly in precisely the same way.''
Mr Gibson says humour and light-hearted messages might also
be important components in a carol.
''Cheerfulness is what sets in at Christmas, by and large. I
think merriment is one of the essential tones of Christmas.
Hope, too, is in abundance. After all, a new year is