• 1121/2220/timp.perc/hp/str
  • SATB
  • 4 sopranos, mezzo soprano, contralto, 4 tenors, 3 baritones, 3 basses
  • 2 hr 15 min

Programme Note


Scene i
The Angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary and announces that she will bear a son as a virgin. When the Angel has disappeared, Joseph enters and Mary tells him her news. Joseph believes that she has been unfaithful to him and tells her that they must part. However, the Angel appears to him and explains the situation. Joseph and Mary are reunited and set off on their way to Bethlehem to be taxed.

Choral interlude: At the ending of the year
Scene ii
In the hills outside Bethlehem, the shepherd, Jem, watches over his flock. He is joined by his brothers, Sim and Dave and they try and keep warm with song. A bright star is seen in the heavens and the voices of an angelic host tell the shepherds of the birth of a saviour in the town. The shepherds dance off to Bethlehem, singing an old westcountry carol.

Choral Interlude: O come, all ye faithful
Scene iii
In the stable in Bethlehem, Mary has given birth to the baby Jesus, to whom she sings a lullaby. The shepherds are heard approaching. When they arrive, there is an awkward silence, as they have not brought any gift for the child. Eventually, they improvise, and present the baby with their pipe, hat and mittens, before going on their way with a reprise of their carol.

Choral Interlude: The Holly and the Ivy
Scene iv
The main square in Jerusalem. Zarathustra has arrived in the city, following a star from the East which promises the arrival of a saviour. He is joined by two other travellers, the young Nubar, and the elderly Merlin, who have also been following the star. They decide to continue their journey together.

A commotion arises in the square, as a young woman claims that a king has been born in Bethlehem, she is shouted down by another man. He in turn is drowned out by the populace singing news of the baby (I saw three ships and The first nowell). The celebrations are drowned by a fanfare from the walls of Herod’s palace. Preceded by his herald, Calchas, Herod arrives in great state. When he hears that ‘three wizards’ have been heard asking after an infant king, Herod is gripped by panic. He orders that the wizards be brought before him.

When they arrive, Herod endeavours to charm them, and the travellers promise that when they have found the child, they will return and tell him the location so that he (Herod) may also pay his respects. When the Wise men have departed, Herod erupts in fury and vows that no one will challenge his own power.

Choral Interlude: The Seven Joys of Mary
Scene v
The Wise Men arrive at the stable and give their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby. They prophesy his ministry, death and resurrection. The Angel appears once again and warns the Wise Men not to return via Jerusalem and advises Joseph to take Mary and the baby into Egypt where they will be safe from Herod’s fury. They set out on their journey, escorted by a heavenly choir.