Music: Eric M. Pazdziora. Text: George MacDonald.
Piano: Ben Lynerd
Cello: Clare Rothschild
Director: Joan Allison
Premiered December 16, 2010, at “Christmas On The Town” – Holy Trinity Church, Chicago IL.
This piece for choir was premiered on December 16, 2010, at my church‘s Christmas concert. The text is a Christmas poem by George MacDonald. He gave it the title “A Christmas Carol,” which is descriptive enough but rather too much like every other Christmas song ever composed, so I took the liberty of revising it to “The Savior’s Carol.” I’m very haunted by the poem and pleased with my setting of it.
THE SAVIOR’S CAROL
George MacDonald (1824-1905)
Babe Jesus lay in Mary’s lap,
The sun shone in his hair;
And this was how she saw, mayhap,
The crown already there.
For she sang: “Sleep on, my little king;
Bad Herod dares not come;
Before thee sleeping, holy thing,
The wild winds would be dumb.”
“I kiss thy hands, I kiss thy feet,
My child, so long desired;
Thy hands will never be soiled, my sweet;
Thy feet will never be tired.”
“For thou art the king of men, my son;
Thy crown I see it plain!
And men shall worship thee, every one,
And cry, Glory! Amen!”
Babe Jesus he opened his eyes wide–
At Mary looked her lord.
Mother Mary stinted her song and sighed;
Babe Jesus said never a word.
Some notes I wrote for the choir: Not everything in MacDonald’s poem is as it appears on the surface. He is playing with a very traditional carol form–Mary sings a lullaby to baby Jesus, telling Him what He will grow up to be–and ever-so-subtly making a complete subversion and deconstruction of it. Mary is an unreliable narrator. Contrary to what she sings, Jesus’ hands and feet would not be free from pain, because men did not “worship Him, every one.” There is a soft but unmistakable look forward to the pietà, when “Jesus lay in Mary’s lap” with a different kind of crown: one for a Savior, not a king. What was there in the silent look the Lord gave His mother? We don’t know; “He opened not His mouth.”
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