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Carousing for Epiphany

4 - All Saints, Fulham. (Putney exhibition) by Jebaloo (Flickr)

4 – All Saints, Fulham. (Putney exhibition) by Jebaloo (Flickr)

Carousing. We’re definitely a Choir who like carousing.

After our Nine Lessons and Carols service in December, we had a party in honour of our Alto Choral Scholar, Elspeth Marrow, who is sadly leaving us, that would definitely be filed under Carousing in the dictionary!

So the tale of how Peter Warlock and Bruce Blunt caroused after writing the Christmas Carol ‘Bethlehem Down’ is a tale close to our Choir’s collective hearts.

The tale starts in December 1927. I’m sure we all agree December is a tough month to get through, despite the promise of Christmas. There’s always lots of work to get done, and quite frankly Peter and Bruce and had it up to here. All they wanted was an “immortal carouse” – a big blow out session to drink away all their problems on Christmas Eve. But there was one small but important fly in the ointment in their plan for carousing. Neither Peter nor Bruce had any money.

So they thought long and hard and realised that they need to play to their strengths to find the money – Peter was a composer and Bruce was a poet and journalist.

An advert for a large cash prize for the annual Christmas Carol writing competition in the Daily Telegraph caught the eye of the two friends and an idea was conceived. Bruce wrote the words on a stroll home from the pub and then sent the lyrics onto Peter who set them to music and Bethlehem Down was born.

Their excellent Carol blew away the judges and together Peter and Bruce won the Carol competition. And more importantly for them, it won them a heap of money just in time for Christmas. They made good on their promise. They caroused and caroused and caroused all night until… well let’s just say it was a very messy end.

The Carol, with its elegant story of Jesus’ birth and the foreshadowing of his death in four short verses, is much loved by Choirs everywhere. And the tale of how and why it was written by Peter Warlock and Bruce Blunt is one we all love too. We can’t wait to sing the Carol again at the All Saints Fulham Epiphany Carol Service on Sunday 11th January at 6pm.

Bethlehem Down

When he is King we will give him the Kings’ gifts,
Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown,
“Beautiful robes,” said the young girl to Joseph,
Fair with her first-born on Bethlehem Down.

Bethlehem Down is full of the starlight
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold,
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

When he is King they will clothe him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown,
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary,
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down.

Here he has peace and a short while for dreaming,
Close-huddled oxen to keep him from cold,
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

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About All Saints Fulham Choir

The All Saints Fulham Church is the home of three choirs. A traditional Parish Choir who sing wide-ranging repertoire which spans nine centuries and tours regularly at home and abroad; a Gospel Choir who sing a mixture of contemporary and traditional gospel styles, and a junior choir for children from Year 3 upwards.

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