(K. Brent Tomer),
FEW Christmas songs temper the joy and light of the festive season with the dark realities of modern life. Most “wish it could be Christmas everyday”, or point out “what fun it is to laugh and sing a sleighing song”. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is rather different; sombre and earnest in tone, it offers up themes of hope and strife in equal measure. In a 2008 BBC poll, “In the Bleak Midwinter” won the title of “Best Christmas Carol”. Yet the 110-year-old carol’s snow-and-straw depiction of the arrival of the Christ child continues to resonate beyond the religious to move music lovers of all kinds.
Historically, two primary settings of “In the Bleak Midwinter” have rotated through the repertoires of cathedral choirs, though both use the spartan 1870s verses of Christina Rossetti. The first, published in 1906 by Gustav Holst (the composer of “The Planets”), is a hymn based upon a simple folk melody with a major/minor chord progression; the second is a slightly more complex choral arrangement with organ accompaniment written by Harold Darke in 1909.
Of the two, Jeffrey Baxter,…Continue reading