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ClassicsOnline Home » Christmas Lullabies - CAMPKIN, A. / FINZI, G. / MANCHICOURT, P. de / MUDGE, A. / LING, T. (Sleep, Holy Babe) (Blossom Street, H. Campbell)
Sleep, Holy Babe is a collection of Christmas lullabies which reflect the old traditions and restful, contemplative nature of the nativity story. Some works date back as far as the sixteenth century, such as Richard Pygott’s Quid petis, O Fili? from a collection owned by Henry VIII. Others are freshly composed, and many, such as Gerald Finzi’s A Lullaby, are recorded here for the first time.
By Sarah Bryan Miller
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
SLEEP, HOLY BABE
A Collection of Christmas Lullabies
Sleep, Holy Babe is a collection of Christmas lullabies (published by Shorter House, 2010), on which this recording is based. The tradition of singing lullabies at Christmastide reflects the restful, contemplative nature of the nativity story. In addition to lullabies, this collection includes a number of liturgical settings reflecting on the mystery of Christmas. Some of the works selected for this recording date back to the sixteenth-century, while others have been written recently by young composers. Most of the works presented here are recorded for the first time.
Alexander Campkin composed his setting of Sleep, Holy Babe in 2005 whilst at Oxford University. Campkin has a tradition of composing a Christmas carol each year and found himself drawn to the beauty and poignancy of Edward Caswall’s text: “…And Thou to lengthened pains awake. That death alone shall close.”
Gerald Finzi’s little-known setting of a Greek folksong, simply called A Lullaby, has not been commercially recorded until now. The text contains universal elements of the lullaby—rocking to sleep and shielding from danger.
The sixteenth-century Franco-Flemish composer Pierre de Manchicourt’s setting of the advent antiphon O Emanuel is presented here on CD for the first time. O Emanuel is the last in the sequence of the seven ‘O’ advent antiphons.
Edinburgh-based composer, Anthony Mudge, composed his setting of the Christmas Day responsory O magnum mysterium for this collection. The text describes the wonder of the animals as they look upon Christ in the manger.
Trevor Ling is conductor of the St Michael’s Chorale and a former bass at Westminster Cathedral. His setting of the Latin Magnificat (the song of Mary), is based on Tone VII with verses set alternately in plainchant and four-part harmony.
Hilary Campbell’s Sleep, my dreaming one was composed for this collection. The text is adapted (by the composer) from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus. Campbell uses gentle oscillating dissonances to express the words.
Jonathan Rathbone was formerly director of The Swingle Singers, for whom he wrote many arrangements. Here his arrangement of Sing Lullaby uses the traditional Basque melody. Baring-Gould’s text foretells the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Richard Pygott served as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal under Henry VIII and Edward VI. Quid petis, O Fili? is contained in a collection owned by Henry VIII.
David Bevan was formerly Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral. His Magnificat sets alternate verses of plainchant with florid eight-part verses creating a wonderful contrast between simplicity and sheer exuberance.
John Duggan was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral before reading music at Oxford. He wrote both the words and the music to his three-part O Babe, born bare. Here it can be heard in its SSA form, (though it is also available for TTB). Like other pieces represented here, Duggan refers to events in Christ’s life, including his betrayal.
The words of the Coventry Carol are found in the fifteenth-century pageant of the Shearman and Tailors. In his setting, Daniel Burges weaves the traditional melody through all the voices creating a subtle and rich texture.
Francis Pott composed Lullay, my Liking, also based on a fifteenth-century text, for St Johns College Cambridge in 2004. Pott develops this traditional tune and uses the inherent stresses in the text as the basis for a naturally fluctuating metre.
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