Merry & Happy, Peace & Joy…to You and Yours!

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” ~ Josh Billings



“Bethlehem Down” – King’s College Cambridge

Bethlehem Down” is a Christmas carol for SATB choir composed in 1927 by British composer Peter Warlock (1894–1930) (the pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine).[a] It is set to a poem written by journalist and poet Bruce Blunt (1899–1957). Warlock and Blunt wrote the carol to finance an “immortal carouse” (a heavy bout of drinking) over Christmas in 1927. The pair submitted the carol to The Daily Telegraphs annual Christmas carol contest and won. It is characterised by modal harmony with chromatic inflections. The musicologist Barry Smith described “Bethlehem Down” as the finest of all of Warlock’s choral music.

In 1930, Warlock composed an arrangement of “Bethlehem Down” for solo voice and keyboard accompaniment. It was the last piece of music that Warlock wrote, less than three weeks before he died. The solo arrangement uses the soprano line from the SATB version as its melody. It features more complex harmony than the choral arrangement, highlighting the text in a more sombre manner.

Barry Smith writes that, although Warlock was not religious and was anti-Christian, he liked the story of Christmas.[21] Hold writes that Blunt’s text takes an “oblique” approach to carol text, contrasting the Christmas story (“Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown”) with the later life of Jesus (“Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown”).  –

“When He is King we will give Him a King’s gifts
Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown
Beautiful robes”, said the young girl to Joseph
Fair with her first-born on Bethlehem Down
Bethlehem Down is full of the starlight
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold
When He is King they will clothe Him in grave-sheets
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down
Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming
Close-huddled oxen to keep him from cold
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold


King’s College Cambridge 2010  – Once in Royal David’s City

Once in Royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honour and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For he is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.


“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – The Philadelphia Orchestra – A Christmas Festival – 1964

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