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WorksChoral MusicMixed Chorus with accomp.In the Bleak Midwinter (arr.)

In the Bleak Midwinter (arr.)
SATB chorus, 2 soloists, piano or harp

(see what's new in the Performance Notes)

Text: Christina Rossetti (modified), John Andrew Storey (v. 2)
Tune: Gustav Holst
Duration: 5:45 min.
Commissioned by: Ruth Palmer
Dedication: Dedicated to one of pure heart, hope and joy.
Premiere: Dec 9, 2007; Unity Choir; Unity Church-Unitarian, Saint Paul, MN
Published by: Abbie Betinis Music Co., AB-047-02


  REVIEWS (Click to view/hide)
"This is a lovely, atmospheric setting . . . Betinis crafts some beautiful moments. . . shifting from voice part to voice part. The two soloists' duet takes us into new territory while the choir hums the familiar carol and it comes to a serene conclusion. Medium difficulty."
- Philip Brunelle. Excerpted from "The American Organist: Choral Old and New" (Dec 2010).
"For the national reading session, I recommended In the Bleak Midwinter, Betinis, SATB, s.a. solos, piano: Building upon the Holst melody, a divisi accompaniment is created in harmonizing parts. The piano accompaniment is harp-like and the two soloists provide an innocence over the choir hum[ming] in the last verse. Great for teaching line and phrasing."
- Karen Fulmer, NW-ACDA R & S Chair. From "Creative Planning and Programming for High School Choirs."

"Abbie Betinis does a superb job of resetting a traditional Christmas hymn. She is able to transform what is a simple strophic work into something filled with emotion and beautiful text painting. The work uses a combination of imitative counterpoint, ostinato, and homophony. The work is not overly difficult for what it is able to accomplish in sounds and textures and will be a rewarding experience for any choir to perform."
- Benjamin Schoening, WCDA R & S Chair (2-Year Colleges). From Melisma Magazine (Spring 2012).

  LISTEN (Click to view/hide)

BYU Singers 2008-2009; Ron Staheli, conductor; Jared Oaks, piano; Solos by Aubrey Brinkerhoff (soprano) & Michelle Broadbent (mezzo).

  COMPLETE TEXT (Click to view/hide)
In the Bleak Midwinter Poem by Christina Rossetti, John Andrew Storey (modified A. Betinis)
In the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter long ago.

Christ a homeless stranger,
so the gospels say,
cradled in a manger
and a bed of hay;
in the bleak midwinter,
a stable place sufficed,
Mary and her baby, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have thronged the air,
Shepherds, beasts and wise men,
May have gathered there,
But only his mother
In her tender bliss
Blessed this new redeemer
With a kiss.

What can I give you,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give you:
Give my heart.

I give my heart...

Verse 1 by Christina Rossetti, verse 2 by John Andrew Storey, verses 3 & 4 by Rossetti, modified A. Betinis. These texts are in the public domain, and may be reprinted from this website for use in concert programs and for promotional use as related to this musical work.

  PERFORMANCE NOTES (Click to view/hide)
If you have a first edition of "In the Bleak Midwinter" (AB-047-01) don't worry -- you can still use it! With a few quick notes to your choristers, you can bring your first edition up to date. Click here to see the full list of changes & corrections in the second edition.

PERFORMANCE IDEAS FROM ABBIE (not printed in any edition -- just ideas that I like)
m.22, alto:Alto II: double Alto I on beats 1-2 (then split off)
m.22, etc, alto:add slight hairpins: cresc two beats/decresc two beats (so altos I & II are all phrasing, but with opposite hairpins)
m.38, tenor:change half note bt 3-4 to: quarter note on bt 3, quarter rest on bt 4
m.40, tenor:change half note "babe" to dotted quarter + eighth rest
m.40, alto:add cresc bts 1-3; change bt 4 quarter note to eighth note-eighth rest.
m.41, sop & alto:sing "-sus" (of "Je-sus") on bt 4 instead of bt 3
m.46-47, sop & alto:Sop I & Alto I only (or perhaps Sops I + II only) for thinner texture
m.47, sop & alto:hold & decresc through bt 2 (i.e. change measure to half note, half rest)
m.48, sop:tutti
m.49: alto:tutti
m.61, alto:Alto II double Alto I bts 1-2 (like m.22)
m.63, all:add "Poco Rit" on bts 3-4
m.64, all:add "A Tempo"
m.64, tenor:add decresc after f
m.77-78, chorus:draw dotted slurs (NB)


duet voice type: Please feel free to 'cast' various voice types in the duet (m.65-83), sung in their octave. I've heard so many combinations now (Tenor/Alto; Tenor/Baritone; Soprano/Baritone; Boy Soprano/Alto) and each combination inspires such intimacy and character.

children's choir: I've heard some beautiful performances that bring in children's choir for the opening verse (they could actually sing through m42 - on their own or doubling sopranos). They can quietly exit the stage after that first verse, or they can sing again at the humming chorus (m.64-79), and perhaps also double SA "I give my heart" at the end.

language: Last year I received a beautiful request from a conductor abroad wanting to experiment with translating the lower voice in the duet (m.65-83) into another language spoken in her community -- showing the possibilities of intercultural generosity in the words "I give my heart." Yes yes yes!


Acadia University Chorus - Wolfville, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Ames Chamber Artists - Ames, IA
BYU Singers (Ron Staheli, conductor)
Century College Choir (Jocelyn Kalajian) - White Bear Lake, MN
Concert Choir of University High School, IL (Chris Corpus, conductor)
Choir of East Side Lutheran Church (Glenyta Hanson, cond.) - Sioux Falls, SD
Choral Arts Ensemble (Michael Culloton, cond.) - Rochester, MN
Chorus pro Musica (Betsy Burleigh, cond.) - Boston, MA
Greenville College Choir, IL (Jeff Wilson, conductor)
Highland Camerata, Macalester College (Eugene Rogers, cond.) - St. Paul, MN
Indianapolis Men's Chorus (Greg Sanders, conductor) - Indianapolis, IN
IUP Chorus (James Dearing, conductor)
Madrigalia (Lee Wright, conductor) - Rochester, NY
Monmouth Chorale (Lee Kesselman, cond.) - Monmouth, IL
New Classic Singers - Arlington Heights, IL
Oakwood High School Chorus (Rich Brunner, conductor)
Oral Robert University Chorale (Edward Pierce, conductor)
The Phipps Center for the Arts Festival Chorus (Thomas Dahle, conductor)
Lincoln Civic Choir (William Wyman, conductor)
Nova Singers (Laura Lane, conductor)
Presb. Church of Chestnut Hill (Mark Anderson, cond.) - Philadelphia, PA
Seattle Choral Company (Freddie Coleman, conductor) - Seattle, WA
South Bend Chamber Singers (Nancy Menk, conductor)
Thunder Bay Arts Council Chorus, MI
Unity Choir (Ruth Palmer, conductor) - St. Paul, MN
USC Thornton School of Music
UW-Oshkosh Chamber Choir (Carl Chapman, conductor) - Oshkosh, WI
Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota (Garrett Lathe, conductor)

(Have you performed this piece? Add your performance!)