A Child Is Born In Bethlehem

Complexity Level: medium for community choirs - diatonic with dissonance

Parts: SAAB (Tenors sing the tune with the sopranos and take the Sop 2 part at the divisi).

Genre: Medieval Hymn

Deets: A minor. 3/4

To my ears, the beautiful melody of this ancient hymn is hauntingly sad.  I imagine a film scene of an army's camp at dawn, the day of the battle. The doomed soldiers still sleeping. The ashen fires still smoking. The tune plays slowly on a bamboo flute, with gathering strings underneath.  The camp wakes and the army faces their tragic fate with resigned stoicism. 

But then of course the words could not contrast more with this! The words rejoice for life - new life, divine life. Christian or not, we know this. The arrival of a baby is a miracle. An emotionally vast, lived experience of Gloria. Great men fall to their knees to worship a newborn.

The challenge in arranging this is reconciling these two strong and opposite emotions. I've kept the piece simple, diatonic and accessible for community choirs but I've added some dissonance to work with these conflicting ideas.  I've used passing notes to create dissonance in a way community choirs can enjoy. .Dissonance can summon brilliance - like a sky suddenly filled with angels or it can express profound anguish.

Mary's story has both.