The Mystery of Bethlehem

The Mystery of Bethlehem
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Price: $5.95
Product ID : SY775
Weight: 0.32 lbs
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48 pages, 8.5" x 11"
Minimum Order of 4

The Mystery of Bethlehem is a six movement Christmas Cantata by Healey Willan with liturgical texts translated by Athelstan Riley and John M. Neale.The Mystery of Bethlehem is composed for soprano solo, baritone solo, SATB chorus (divisi), and organ. Supplementary parts are available for oboe, 2 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, drums, and harp or piano and glockenspiel.


(1) The Mystery of Bethlehem with comb binding - lays flat on music rack or music stand

(2) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Prophcy - Movement No. 1

(3) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Annunciation - Movement No. 2

(4) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Manger - Movement No. 3

(5) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Shepherds - Movement No. 4

(6) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Magi  - Movement No. 5

(7) The Mystery of Bethlehem: The Fulfillment - Movement No. 6

O Wisdom. which camest out of the mouth of the Most High; 
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel; 
O Root of Jesse; 
O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel; 
O Day-spring. Brightness of Light Everlasting, 
O King of Nations, and their Desire; 
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: Come and save us. 
SOLO (Soprano) 
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery. 
Adapted from the “Great O Antiphons” of Advent 
SOLO (Baritone) 
Hail, O Star that pointest 
Towards the port of heaven. 
Thou to whom a maiden God for Son was gives 
When the salutation Gabriel had spoken. 
Peace was shed upon us, 
Eden's bonds were broken. 
Jesus' tender Mother.   
Make thy supplication 
Unto Him who chose thee 
As His Incarnation. 
So, as now we journey. 
Aid our weak endeavour. 
Till we gaze on Jesus. 
And rejoice forever. 
CHORUS (Sopranos and Contraltos)
My soul doth magnify the Lord: 
and my soul hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; 
For he bath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden; 
For behold from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed. 
Verses from the hymn “Ave Maris Stella," tr. Athelstan Riley, and “Magnificat”
SOLO (Baritone) 
Therefore, when at length the fullness 
Of the appointed time was come, 
He was sent, the world's Creator,
From the Father's heavenly home, 
And was found in human fashion, 
Offspring of the Virgin's womb. 
A Lullaby for Our Lady 
Lo, He lies, an Infant weeping 
Where the narrow manger ends. 
While the Mother-maid, His members 
Wraps in mean and lowly bands. 
And the swaddling clothes is winding 
Round His helpless Feet and Hands. 
Verse from the hymn “Pange Lingua.” by Fortunatus. Tr. J. M. Neal  
CHORUS (Sopranos) 
Whom saw ye, Shepherds? 
Say ye and tell us the tidings of the birth of Christ. 
He that bath appeared upon earth. 
CHORUS (Tenors and Basses) 
We have seen Him that is born and the choirs of angels 
rejoicing together and praising Him, the Lord our God. 
Shepherds in the field abiding. 
Watching o'er your flocks by night; 
God with man is now residing. 
Yonder shines the Infant Light; 
Come and worship, 
Worship Christ, the new-born King. 
Adapted from the Christmas Responsories. and a verse from a hymn by James Montgomery 
CHORUS (Sopranos and Contraltos) 
From the East there came sages to Bethlehem 
and seeing the star they rejoiced with great rejoicing 
SOLO (Baritone one of the Magi) 
Yon star gleameth like a fiery beacon ! 
'Tis the sign of a mighty King. 
Let us fare forth and seek Him, 
and we will offer gold as to a mighty monarch, 
incense as to the true God 
and myrrh to fore-shew His burial 
The star went leading on from East to West, 
The wise men followed, till they saw it rest In Bethlehem. 
Their frankincense, and myrrh, and gold they bring, 
To hail the God, the Mortal, and the King In Bethlehem. 
With threefold gifts, the Threefold God three praise, 
Who thus vouchsafed the Son of Man to raise In Bethlehem. 
Adapted from the Epiphany Responsories and verses of an XIth century carol “Congaudest turba fidelium” tr. J. M. Neal 
This is He Whom seers in old time 
Chanted of with one accord; 
Whom the voices of the prophets 
Promised in their faithful word; 
Now He shines, the long-expected; 
Let creation praise its Lord. 
O ye heights of Heav'n, adore Him; 
Angel-hosts, His praises sing; 
All dominions, bow before Him. 
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent. 
Every voice in concert ring, 
Evermore and evermore. 
Verses from the hymn “Corde Natus ex Parentis”, by Prudentius, tr. J. M. Neal  
The Mystery of Bethlehem is a Christmas cantata, written in 1923, and that may be performed as a masque, or series of staged scenes, portraying episodes from the Christmas story. The texts are liturgical, patristic and biblical in origin, mixed with verses taken from carols to form a semi-mystical version of the events of the familiar biblical story. It is a very accessible piece; almost an episodic meditation on Christ’s birth. 
I. The Prophecy 
The texts are taken from the “O Antiphons”, so-called because they each begin with the word “O”. In the West, these antiphons are used at the service of Vespers in the last seven days of Advent. Each is a name for Christ: "Root of Jesse," "Key of David," "Emmanuel," etc., taken from scripture, and relating back to the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the coming of the Messiah. The Advent carol, "O come, O come, Emmanuel," is a paraphrase of these antiphons. 
II. The Annunciation 
The Feast of the Annunciation takes place on March 25, nine months before Christmas, and commemorates the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of God. The words here are part of the beautiful Ave Maris Stella, written by an unknown author in the 8th or 9th century. Beneath the soloist, the choir sings the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise to God, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” 
III. The Manger 
This movement includes a verse taken from the hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis, (Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory), written by Venantius Fortunatus, a Latin poet and hymn-writer and a Bishop of the 6th century. The whole poem speaks of Christ’s birth, life and death in terms of a battle, and a victory. 
IV. The Shepherds 
The text here begins with the Antiphon for the hour of Prime on Christmas Day. It is taken from the Roman Breviary. This is followed by a familiar verse from the carol, "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night." 
V. The Magi 
This movement takes its texts from three sources: Matthew’s gospel; an Antiphon for Epiphany taken from the Franciscan Breviary, and finally a translation of an 11th century carol. 
VI. The Fulfilment 
The final movement of the work sets two verses of the carol, "Of the Father’s Love Begotten," gathering up all that has gone before and reaching a triumphant climax of adoration.  


The Prophecy

The Annunciation

The Manger

The Shepherds

The Magi

The Fulfilment

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