The Saviour is born this day


Christmas decorations at Middleton Hall, Tamworth

What is it?

The Saviour is born this day is a setting of my own lyrics below to the melody of The Boar’s Head Carol, arranged for four voices (SATB) unaccompanied. All parts are easy to sing. The Boar's Head Carol was first published 1521 by Wynken de Worde in Christmasse Carolles. The original melody has a regal beauty, which I have retained. The harmonies are my own, while keeping as much as possible to the spirit of early 16th century heraldic music.


The notion of a Lord of the Manor laying on a Christmas feast of roast boar's head for his servants is completely alien to 21st Century thinking; and it seemed to me a pity that such lovely music should remain unused simply because people cannot identify with the original words (which were in any case a mixture of middle English and Latin). My own alternative lyrics communicate a meaningful message while still conveying a sense of 16th century majesty. In this way I hope that this beautiful and regal music may once again become relevant to our Christmases.

The Saviour is born this day,
the Christ of God a babe become,
and we pray you, our brethren joyful be:
and worship him, the holy one.
God is with us as we sing
Glory to the new-born King.

The Father, as we understand,
sent his Son to shine in Israel’s land;
to die for us by his people’s hand:
upon a cross his blood to flow.
God is with us as we sing
Glory to the new-born King.

The love of God has overcome
the sting of death for everyone
who puts his trust in the babe who came:
the Lord Almighty is his name!
God is with us as we sing
Glory to the new-born King.


For the purposes of this video I decided to play the music with the parts as I have now set them, but imagining how that would sound if played by a full renaissance dance band. (So, for example, the melody in the second verse is played by bass crumhorns and great bass racketts!) The recorder parts are all played by me - I was and remain something of a recorder specialist. This includes the sopranino recorder over the top, in exactly the style that we used when I played in my university's Musica Antiqua band - that's why I'm fairly confident of the styling here. I've set it against scenes from the beautiful city of Prague and the Cathedral of Saint Vitus, which dominates its skyline. I lived for three years in Prague, never growing tired of the place. Quite simply, it is the most lovely city in Europe and in many ways I wish that I lived there still.



Christmas candles set for a banquet
at Middleton Hall, Tamworth

I have always loved The Boar’s Head Carol. Unfortunately it is less and less sung these days. (The last time I heard it was at an alumni Christmas dinner at my former university.) For a start, I guess very few families bother with boars’ heads any more at Christmas: too much hassle. Great if the servants do it all for you, of course, but not great if you have to do it yourself. Besides, one doesn’t generally find boars’ heads on supermarket shelves even at Christmas. At least, not in my country one doesn’t.

So I set myself the task of dreaming up some words that people in today’s churches might be happy to sing, while using the music of The Boar’s Head Carol. Well, the melody at least. I didn't want any old words - they had to be ones that carried the sense of singers inviting people to worship, in the same way that the original invited people to a feast; also they needed to be both Biblical and in line with church doctrine (not that those two should ever be not in alignment.)

The harmonies presented an interesting challenge. Early renaissance music tended to have bold, open harmonies (nothing slushy like dominant sevenths or parallel thirds) and I wanted to retain the sense of open naivety. At the same time, I wanted a hint of sharp-edged dissonance, reflecting my own preference for harmonies that aren't quite what people expect. So I wrote a first pass, pulled some of the harmonies inside-out, turned others upside-down and finished up with what you hear above. It works. Rather well, I think!

A group of us used it to open a Christmas carol service, unannounced, at a local church. Even without all the dance band stuff you hear above it was very effective.


A Christmas wedding banquet
at Middleton Hall, Tamworth

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