(Which follows the last night of Chanukah.)
I finish up the holiday with two–count ’em!–Chanukah songs.
The first is “Light One Candle” by Peter Yarrow, sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary:
Video from the PBS Holiday Concert, posted by Loren Newsom
Peter, Paul, and Mary debuted “Light One Candle” during their 1982 Holiday Concert at Carnegie Hall, and if you keep count as they sing, you will see that the lyrics “light one candle” repeat exactly eight times–and if you watch carefully, you can see that the children light one candle each time that phrase is repeated, making them a human menorah.
(The top comment on this particular YouTube is by the producer and director of the PBS show, how awesome is that?)
And the second song is “Al Hanisim”; words from an extra paragraph inserted into the daily prayers on Chanukah (and Purim), melody by Dov Frimer, sung by Shira Kline:
Enjoy the end of Chanukah!
So. About “Light One Candle”:
In addition to it being a Chanukah song, the songwriter, Peter Yarrow, is Jewish, and as part of the folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, he wrote or co-wrote some of their best known songs (including “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Day is Done”). The group was known for its activism in addition to its music–they sang at the 1969 March on Washington and were involved in the anti-Vietnam protests–and they have continued that activism throughout their lives and careers. Yarrow himself was prominent in the campaign to free Soviet Jews in the 1980s, and performed with his son and daughter during the Occupy Wall Street protests. You can see in the lyrics of “Light One Candle” that his Jewish roots have served as a wellspring for his political beliefs.
And about “Al Hanisim”:
As I said above, the words for this song are those of the introductory phrases of paragraphs inserted into daily prayers on Chanukah and Purim, and it is an expression of thanksgiving for the salvations those two Rabbinic holidays celebrate. As such, we date it back to the Gaonic period, possibly the 8th or 9th century. The melody, by Dov Frimer, only dates back to 1974, when it debuted at the Chassidic Song Festival, but it’s among the most popular melodies for the words as lyrics to a stand-along song, being very danceable.