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In The Bleak Mid Winter (Christina Rossetti/Gustav Holst cover)

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Uploaded on Nov 28, 2010

In The Bleak Mid Winter (cover)
1996
Frank O' The Mountain
I heard a weird choir singing this, so thought I'd try to record a whole choir myself. They sang sharp and flat here and there, which gave it some strange charm. I tried to emulate what I heard. I used a bit of this on the intro to the Radioactive Squid CD.


In the Bleak Midwinter
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas carol.
Although the lyrics were written as a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti before 1872, it was published posthumously in Rossetti's Poetic Works in 1904 and became a Christmas carol after it appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Holst.

According to the website Cyber Hymnal, Rossetti wrote these words in response to a request from the magazine Scribner's Monthly for a Christmas poem.[1]

In 2008 Harold Darke's setting was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts.[2]

In verse one, Rossetti describes the physical circumstances of the Incarnation in Bethlehem: In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.

In verse two, Rossetti contrasts Christ's first and second coming. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, Nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away When he comes to reign; In the bleak midwinter A stable place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

The third verse dwells on Christ's birth and describes the simple surroundings, in a humble stable and watched by beasts of burden. Enough for him, whom Cherubim Worship night and day A breast full of milk And a manger full of hay. Enough for him, whom angels Fall down before, The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Rossetti achieves another contrast in the fourth verse, this time between the incorporeal angels attendant at Christ's birth with Mary's ability to render Jesus physical affection. This verse is omitted in the Harold Darke setting. Angels and archangels May have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim Thronged the air; But his mother only, In her maiden bliss, Worshipped the Beloved With a kiss.

The final verse may be the most well known and loved. Here, Darke repeats the last line in his setting. What can I give him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, Yet what I can I give Him — Give my heart.

The text of this Christmas poem has been set to music many times, the most famous settings being composed by Gustav Holst and Harold Edwin Darke in the early 20th century. The Holst setting is a fine and lovely hymn tune setting, allowing for the irregular metre of the poem, and suitable for congregational singing. The Darke setting is more advanced and each verse is treated slightly differently, with solos for soprano and tenor (or a group of sopranos and tenors). There is another setting—less well known—from the same era, by Thomas B. Strong. Benjamin Britten includes a setting for chorus in his work "A Boy Was Born". Eric Thiman wrote a setting for solo voice and piano. Bob Chilcott, at one time a member of The King's Singers, wrote a beautiful choral setting entitled "Mid-winter". Another setting for choir with tenor and soprano soloists—with a distinctive organ accompaniment—was composed by Robert C L Watson in 1996. In 2010, American composer Dean Rishel created a setting for mixed chorus that treats the poem as a narrative, in the nature of a miniature cantata. The Holst version has been recorded by a number of popular recording artists, including Bert Jansch, Julie Andrews in 1982, Allison Crowe in 2004, Moya Brennan in 2005 and Sarah McLachlan in 2006, as well as by many choirs including the Robert Shaw Chorale and the choir of St. John's College, Cambridge. The Darke version, with its beautiful and delicate organ accompaniment, has also gained popularity among choirs in recent years, after the King's College Choir included it on its radio broadcasts of the Nine Lessons and Carols. (Incidentally, Darke served as conductor of the choir during World War II.)

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