Choral ~ Holiday ~ A Cappella
“Behold a Simple, Tender Babe”
(An original setting of the poem by Robert Southwell)
NOTE: This piece was premiered by the world-renowned vocal ensemble Chanticleer several years ago.
DURATION: ca. 3:40 — DIFFICULTY: 3/5 — PAGES IN PDF SCORE: 11
HOW TO PLACE AN ORDER — PDF: $50 (for all the copies you need)
A YOUTUBE COMMENT ABOUT THIS PIECE: “Can't tell you how stunning this was last night... Chanticleer premiered it in Chicago. 3 full seconds of silence after the final note. An absolutely perfect marriage of text and tune. The tender phrases evoke the manger scene, the subtle dissonances and suspensions create wonder and mystery, and the irregular meter, yet regular phrases are the perfect paradox of God in human form. A truly great work of art, Mr. Bloesch. I'll be purchasing this to perform next season!”
This 16th-century poem by Robert Southwell draws a sharp contrast between the lowly birth of Christ and a lavish princely court, and comes to the conclusion that the Christ Child's “pomp” is, in fact, far superior to the worldly version.
In keeping with the simple purity of the poem and its message, my goal was to create a carol that is touching in its simplicity and emotional directness. The overall mood of the piece is one of gentleness, reverence, and wonder.
Behold a Simple, Tender Babe
Poem by Robert Southwell (1561-1595), slightly alt. by Peter Bloesch
Behold a simple, tender babe
In freezing winter night
In homely manger trembling lies;
Alas! a piteous sight.
The inns are full, no man will yield
This little pilgrim bed;
But forced is he with simple beasts
In crib to shroud his head.
Despise him not for lying there:
First, what he is inquire:
An orient pearl is often found
In depth of dirty mire.
Weigh not his crib, his wooden dish,
Nor scorn his poor abode;
Weigh not his mother’s poor attire
Nor Joseph’s simple robe.
This stable is a Prince’s court,
The crib his chair of state:
The beasts are parcel of his pomp,
The wooden dish his plate.
The persons in that poor attire
His royal liv’ries wear,
The prince himself is come from heav’n,
This pomp is prizèd there.
With joy approach, O Christian soul,
Do homage to the King.
And highly praise his humble pomp
Which he from heav’n doth bring.