The Holy City (the Song)

Popular religious song composed by Stephen Adams (Michael Maybridge)  and written by Frederick Weatherly. It is in the spirit of Christmas, and for the love of it, that the "The Holy City" is being featured.

"The Holy City", which is a religious Victorian ballad dating from 1892,  has been a popular song in English during Christmas either sung in solo or with a choral group. It is a universal favourite especially among believers. The music was composed by Michael Maybrick, an English composer and singer who wrote under the pseudonym as Stephen Adams, and the lyrics written by Frederic Weatherly, an English lawyer, author and lyricist. 

Through the years there have been numerous brilliant performers who interpreted the song , including Mahalia Jackson and Charlotte Church, however, I find this one sung by Jeanette Macdonald in the 1936 musical-drama film San Francisco that touches the most.  It was also her popular singing that made the film a hit. The second video clip is sung by one of our younger gifted sopranos, Charlotte Church, live from Jerusalem. 
Brief notes about "The Holy City"
  • "The Holy City" is recorded in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review in 1911 as having been sung by an opera singer awaiting trial for fraud in his cell while a group of men arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct were before the judge. In context: The men were said to have dropped on their knees as the song began 'Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair.', the lyrics in contrast with their drunkenness the previous night. The song's conclusion resulted in the judge dismissing the men without punishment, each having learned a lesson from the song.
  • "The Holy City" is mentioned in a famous classic book Ulysses by James Joyce, published 1918-1920.
  • The popularity of "The Holy City" was revived when it was sung by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 hit film San Francisco.
  • The melody formed the basis of a Spiritual titled Hosanna, in turn the basis for the opening of Duke Ellington's Black and Tan Fantasy.

Jeanette Macdonald singing "The Holy City"


Video Credit:
Note: I posted this last year but bringing it forward tomorrow, Christmas 2013. So inspiring and the boys' choir so touching and uplifting.  


  1. The trouble is that this song does not refer to Christmas or to the life of Jesus. It is a Freemasons song referring to the fall of Jerusalem to the First Crusade in 1099 and the creation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The cross in the song is clearly not the crucifix, but the Jerusalem Cross, symbol of the Kingdom. A pity about the lyrics and the history of the song. It is truly beautiful music.

  2. Indeed, a truly beautiful music. Thanks for your insight.


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