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Hoping It Might Be So

A meditation for Christmas

This is a set of variations in the form of a sequence of short carols for double chorus, written for the Christmas tour of the Balthasar Neumann Choir which, for my money, is the best in the world.  The first performance will be on 1st December 2013 in the Festspielhaus in Baden Baden.  Here's the programme note:

When I was small, there were people in our rural  corner of Wessex who still held to the old belief that at midnight on Christmas Eve the farm animals would kneel in their stalls to welcome the Christ child.  I asked to see, but was told "better not disturb them".  By the time I was big enough to venture out to the lowly cattle sheds alone, the magic had gone.  Thomas Hardy's poem, which supplies the title to this little meditation resonates deeply with me.  You see I don't believe in God but I do miss Him, and for this reason wanted the texts of the piece to consider doubt rather than simply greet the son of someone I am no longer convinced is there.  So, here we have a wassail, a mystical verse, a cradle song and a snippet of liturgy mixed up with something from the cheerful drunks who sing their way down the snowy streets at this time of year.  After them, Emily Dickinson asks an obvious, childish question: why do I need a saviour?  Can't I just go to Heaven anyway?  Finally the quieter voice of Thomas Hardy seems to say that however dark the night, we can always hope.  Hope is, after all what distinguishes us from the beasts - or is it?  Maybe one Christmas Eve I'll be brave enough to look and see for myself.

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