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Gritton, Peter: Balulalow

Soprano or Treble Solo, SATB and Organ

In this tender account of verses from the Wedderburn brothers’ translation of Luther’s Christmas Eve Carol Vom Himmel hoch, the composer has illuminated in his individual manner words familiar from settings by Britten and by Warlock. The piece is dedicated to the memory of Philippa Gower, who died in her twentieth year. Subtle, restless chromatic harmony and phrasing evoke the imminent danger threatening the baby Jesus, while for Mary, too, there is not only the natural anxiety of a mother for her child, but also intuited fear of Herod’s cruelty. Suggesting infant lives cut short, an ironic silence interrupts the first verse, before the cradle song resumes to gradually quickening pace. Swiftly rising to an emotive climax, the music falls away to a hushed conclusion, solo soprano completing the text of the opening above sonorous a cappella chords.

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