Sweet Was The Song

  • Arranger: Stephen Smith 
  • Publisher: manuscript - contact via Elektra Women's Choir
  • Canadian Composition: Yes
  • Duration: 4:15

Program Notes:

Stephen Smith, commissioned by Elektra to write a new work for Elektra and tenor soloist Ben Heppner together, looked for source material in Mennonite hymns, a nod to Ben’s Mennonite background. He found “Sweet Was The Song” in an 18th-century Mennonite collection, an original melody to words from the 16th century (William Ballet’s Lute Book). “Balulalow” is a Scottish equivalent to “Lully, lullay”, or “lullaby”.

Conductor Notes:

SSAA, tenor soloist, piano

The story is told by the tenor voice in a low tessitura, with the choir providing a gentle, rich texture behind him, also using the lower end of their usual range. If your children’s choir has comfortable low alto notes (As and Gs), it would certainly be do-able. This is classic Stephen Smith, by which I mean the architecture of the piece is balanced and satisfying, the vocal lines all a pleasure to sing, and the overall effect effortless and successful.

References:

This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.

Collections:

Concerts:

Sweet was the song the Virgin sang,
When she to Bethlem Juda came
And was delivered of a son,
Jesus the Christ by name:
Balulalow, Balulalow.

“Sweet babe”, sang she, “my son,
and yet a saviour born,
who hast vouch-saf’d from on high
to visit us that were forlorn.”
Balulalow, Balulalow.

Sleep gently, child, and know no fear:
Thy Mother mild doth watch Thee here;
The cattle too, within their stall,
And angel hosts, thy guardians all.
Alleluia, Alleluia.

Balulalow, Balulalow.

 

Tune: 18th-century Mennonite collection, an original melody
Text: William Ballet’s Lute Book and Scottish traditional