Translated from a 9th Century Latin hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” decorated monastic life and would be performed the night before Christmas Eve, as part of a series of antiphons or short chants, which “designated to concentrate the mind on the coming Christmas, enriching the meaning of the Incarnation with a complex series of references from the Old and New Testaments,” explains British hymnologist J.R. Watson. An architect of the Oxford movement named John Mason Neale would later translate the solemn hymn after discovering its inclusion in an early 18th Century manuscript. Its enduring legacy spans not only the religious establishment but that of popular culture, as well. From Sufjan Stevens and Enya to Pentatonix, The Civil Wars and Casting Crowns, “Emmanuel” is a stark reminder of a time gone by, well-worn by time’s fleeting charm and endowed with ripened understanding.
The Ladybugs‘ somber, lilting version, found on their latest EP Blue Christmas, stands as one of the most captivating versions, incandescent and fervent. “‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is my favorite song from the EP so I really wanted to film it for a video,” lead vocalist Martina DaSilva tells B-Sides & Badlands, premiering the stoic, mournful visual today. “We were very fortunate to get the opportunity to shoot at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre in downtown Manhattan, which is place where I first began singing as a young girl. This historic theater has an eeriness to it that I felt really captured the mood of this song.”
DaSilva’s silky vocal is counterbalanced by Vanessa Perea’s piercing interpretation on harmony. The pair are joined by Joe McDonough and Rob Edwards (both on trombone), Dida Pelled (guitar) and Dylan Shamat (bass). Perea also contributes on percussion. The final product is gorgeously funereal, shimmering with an eery, understated hope, just in time for the holiday season.