Bethlehem Down

This Christmas we count down the days with an advent calendar of the 25 best Christmas carols ever written, as voted for by 50 top choral experts from the across the UK and US.

22 December: Bethlehem Down

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.

December 17: Of the Father's Heart Begotten

December 18: O Come all ye Faithful

December 19: There is no Rose

December 20: Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day


December 21: Lully, Lulla