After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
(clear, cold winter’s night with the lone shining star / Julie Cook / 2013)
Arbeau’s Orchésographie of 1588 is a French
treatise on dancing containing a number of
attractive tunes, one of which (the Branle de
l’official) has become universally popular as
the carol Ding dong! merrily on high. The
melody of Christmas Night (the Branle de
Poitou in Arbeau’s treatise) has also been
used in Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite for
string orchestra. The words were
specially written for this melody.
Tract number 3, taken from Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity, is a beautifully sweet choral “hymn” —sung by what sounds to be a heavenly choir of the cherubim and seraphim which met the shepherds in the field on that single most significant night so very long ago. I often hit repeat in my car as I listen to this most delightful CD. The music is, to me, hauntingly sweet and somewhat other worldly, despite being sung by earthly bound voices with lyrics conceived in these more modern times.
I’ve already posted the lyrics to another tract, but it has been this 3rd “song” that first stirred something deep inside of me, many years ago, when I fist came upon this lovely little CD.
My Christmas gift to you, if I could sing, would be this choral reminder of the significance of why we celebrate this season as we do. . . Merry Christmas
Softly through the winter’s darkness
shines a light,
Clear and still in Bethlehem on Christmas Night
Round the stable where a virgin mother
Watches over Jesus Christ the holy child.
Shepherds kneel in adoration by his bed,
Seraphim in glory hover round his head.
Wise men, guided by the leading of a star,
Bring him gifts of precious treasure from
Choirs of angels sing to greet his wondrous
Christ our Lord in human form comes down
“Glory to God in highest heav’n” their joyful
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men” the glad
Lullaby! the child lies sleeping: sing lullaby!
Safe in Mary’s tender keeping: sing lullaby!
Guardian angels keep their watch till break
Lullaby! sweet Jesus sleeps among the hay.
Alleluia! let the earth rejoice today!
Christ is born to take our sins and guilt
Praise the Lord who sent him down from
Holy infant, born of God the Father’s love.
Words: John Rutter
Melody from Arbeau’s ‘Orchésographie’ (1588)