The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (267): In the bleak

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (267): In the bleak


norman lebrecht

December 21, 2020

Variations. You choose.



  • J Barcelo says:

    Greatest, most beautiful Christmas song ever – by anyone. Holst’s gift to the world. Arrangements all so good and so different, but for me it’s Annie Lennox #1, Julie Andrews #2.

  • Bratsche brat says:

    Timmy Ho’s!

  • Anon says:

    The words are sentimental slush, and Holst’s tune is only OK – especially when murdered by some of these singers and arrangers. The setting by Harold Darke is far, far better.

    • Caractacus says:

      ‘Sentimental Slush’: the words are very typical of their time and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, I think one has to be careful when judging something written over 150 years ago by present-day standards. The words are no more mawkish than many other carol and hymn texts of that period. Holst’s tune is perhaps given more depth by his harmonies. What annoys me is when singers deviate from Holst’s slightly unusual slurred phrasing in the final line of each verse – in verse one ( for example) it should be ‘long’ (2 notes) ‘a’ (2 notes) and ‘go’ (final note). Like you Anon, I also prefer Darke’s setting.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      This carol has little currency on the US side of the pond, so it was unfamiliar to me. I agree that the tune “is only OK” — to me it sounded like someone trying to remember how the Largo from the “New World” goes, and not quite getting there.

      I agree that Annie Lennox’s is the pick of this bunch, FWIW.

  • Edgar Self says:

    he winter solstice is safely past; we’ve turned the corner. The sun already sets five minutes later in my latitude. Now we only have to get through winter and a plague or two. Bon chance, bon hommes.

  • E says:

    Nice snowscapes win the Mormon Tabernacle video, and
    the last verse, “I would bring a lamb” warms even the
    bleakest midwinter.

  • David Richardson says:

    Answer: None of the above, all self-regarding and contrary Holst’s simple and chaste original setting. No better example of that than the one performed by the choir of King’s College Cambridge. I also have a soft spot for Harold Darke, but there’s room for two popular settings in the English choral tradition