30 December 2015

Christmas with Vaughan Williams (7):
‘Hodie’, 10 and 11, Narration and Lullaby

‘Sweet was the song the Virgin sang’ ... the Nativity icon in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

During this Christmas season, I am inviting you to join me each morning in a series of Christmas meditations as I listen to the Christmas cantata Hodie (‘This Day’) by the great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), drawing on English Christmas poetry from diverse sources, including poems by John Milton, Thomas Hardy and George Herbert, that reflect a variety of Christmas experiences, and the narration of the Nativity story in the Gospels.

Hodie, with its blend of mysticism, heavenly glory and human hope, was composed by Vaughan Williams in 1953-1954 and is his last major choral-orchestral composition.

This morning [30 December 2015], I invite you to join me in listening to the tenth and eleventh movements of Hodie, which include a short reading from Saint Luke’s account of the Christmas story, and a Christmas Lullaby.

10 and 11, Narration and Lullaby

10, Narration:

The tenth movement is a narration that is a short citation from Saint Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2: 19):

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her own heart.

11: Lullaby:

The eleventh movement of Hodie is a lullaby scored for soprano and women’s chorus. This lullaby is based on an anonymous text that is also known in a setting by Benjamin Britten:

Sweet was the song the Virgin sang,
When she to Bethlem Juda came

And was delivered of a Son,
That blessed Jesus hath to name:
“Lulla, lulla, lulla-bye,
Sweet Babe,” sang she,

And rocked him sweetly on her knee.

“Sweet Babe,” sang she, “my son,
And eke a Saviour born,

Who hath vouchsafèd from on high
To visit us that were forlorn:
“Lalula, lalula, lalula-bye,
Sweet Babe,” sang she,
And rocked him sweetly on her knee.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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