Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Et barn er født i Betlehem" (a Danish version of a Reformation-era Christmas carol)

Performances of a Danish variant of a very old northern European carol, words in Latin from the 14th century set to different chorale melodies from the 16th century. (At least two, with more variants collected especially in Norway during the 1800s.) Translated into Danish by Nikolai F.S. Grundtvig.

In the Danish Psalm Book (Den Danske Salmebog Online), No. 104, there are two melodies. One is a minor-key 15th-century chorale attributed to Lossius, 1553, and picked up by Praetorius among others. The other is described as a German folk melody (Tysk visemelodi) from around 1600 harmonized by A.P. Berggreen in 1849. This setting is the Danish carol. To hear the MIDI file, click on the button labeled "Tysk visemelodi omkring 1600" under "Vælg melodi" (which means to choose a melody). There are several 78rpm recordings on YouTube.

And an interesting piano arrangement by Erling Jan Sørensen, with improvisation before and after the basic chorale melody by Sørensen himself ... and the Danish text scrolling past in time with the music.

Members of the Danish Radio Choir (Radiokoret) were recorded in 1941 at Matthæuskirken i Copenhagen. Martellius Lundqvist directed, and Palle Alsfelt played the organ.

And in 2010 "elves" from local music classes in Favreskov, near Aarhus, performed it at the Hadsten Centeret there.

Other links are embedded below, and still others are available on YouTube. Last year I linked to a haunting Norwegian version of the song, with Arve Moen Bergset singing backed by Bukkene Bruse. It has a different melody, although it may be in the same tune family as the Danish one.

Some Danish versions follow, including one at that shows a choir, Koren Glomma [choir from Glomma, a river in eastern Norway] in the city of Cluj-Napoca in Romania singing the Danish song, "with a Norwegian accent," in 2007.

Et barn er født i Bethlehem - Statsradiofoniens Pigekor 1944
Statsradiofoniens Pigekor (Girls' Choir). Dirigent: Lis Jacobsen 1944

Et Barn er født i Bethlehem - Aage Thygesen 1931
Operasanger Aage Thygesen, 1931

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