Words: Bruce Blunt
Music: Peter Warlock
The outward beauty of Warlock’s Bethlehem Down, combined with a very English sort of introverted melancholy, complements the sombre yet reverent mood of many a traditional candle-lit carol service. It’s interesting to sing too, as its flowing harmonies twist, turn, rise and fall, setting the scene for Christ’s simple, secluded birth and later crucifixion. But the motet’s origins are a little surprising. Peter Warlock and journalist friend Bruce Blunt were once reported being arrested as ‘drunk and disorderly’ in the chic area that is London’s Chelsea. Such high-life antics needed subsidising, so the pair duly entered the Daily Telegraph’s annual carol-writing contest in 1927… and won. The proceeds went towards ‘an immortal carouse’ on Christmas Eve.