Dec 122011

This is a choral arrangement I did for our church a while back. We performed it again this year in our Christmas program, and Jenna recorded this video. Like most live recordings it has a bit of background noise, but I suppose of all the pieces I’ve written, this one goes best with various interjections from babies.

“Away in a Manger” is a familiar Christmas carol, paired here with William Kirkpatrick’s charming tune “Cradle Song.” (As with many Christmas songs, the authorship of the text is somewhat disputed, but it certainly wasn’t by Martin Luther and most probably is by James R. Murray.) While there are occasionally scuffles about some of the lyrics’ wording, the Psalter Hymnal Handbook‘s remarks are very relevant:

Though obviously a children’s hymn, “Away in a Manger” is a charming favorite of many people, regardless of age. When people object to the “no crying” phrase in stanza 2, seeing it as a denial of Christ’s humanity, they’ve really missed the childlike nature of this hymn. “Away in a Manger” has a lullaby character in stanzas 1 and 2; stanza 3 is an evening bedtime prayer.

For this arrangement, I set myself the challenge of keeping the “childlike nature” of the original while pushing the harmony to some unexpected areas and (hardest for me) eliminating all extraneous notes. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Here are the words for reference:

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.


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Away in a Manger (SATB divisi + violin)

Arranged by Eric M. Pazdziora
Duration: 3:30
Words: James R. Murray, 1887
Melody: “Cradle Song,” William J. Kirkpatrick, 1895
Performed by Holy Trinity Church choir, Christmas On The Town 2011
Violin: Billy Oh
Conductor: Betty-Ann Lynerd
Performed December 9, 2011, at “Christmas On The Town” – Holy Trinity Church, Chicago, IL
For more information, contact the composer.

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