I usually share my poetry here, but thought this is the best space I have to share my other non-work creative activities. I promised a friend (hi, Meredith!) a copy of my music for my setting of GK Chesterton’s lovely Marian poem, “A Christmas Carol.” I wrote this in 1999, hoping it would be performed in 2000, which would have been the 100th anniversary of the poem. I was not able to find a group that would perform it, so it has languished in my mind since them, with me occasionally singing it to myself as I walk, as happens with most of the rest of the music I’ve written.
The back story on this piece is that my friend, Carol Shaw, was ill with cancer, as it turned out a cancer that would kill her but we didn’t know that yet. She was also struggling and unhappy in some other areas of her life and going through a period of strong personal challenge and growth. One of the projects she started was learning how to work with rocks and build with them, with the goal of building a grotto and shrine to the Virgin Mary. Carol was deeply engaged in Marian traditions and faith. In a conversation with her I mentioned the origins and meaning of her name, which came from Carl and was usually used to refer to the war leader or political leader of a tribe. She was horrified. She absolutely loathed this, and had always believed her name came from Christmas Carol. In a sense, this song was partly to support her in her challenges, and partly to make up for the gaffe of the name.
Carol and I were both sopranos in our local church choir. I wanted to do a piece for the choir to celebrate the Christmas connection with her name, and started looking for a song to to arrange. I wanted something with a Marian focus. I started looking and found there really are very very few carols that celebrate Mary’s role in the birth of Christ. I was very surprised. The few I found didn’t appeal to me to arrange, so I started looking for a Christmas-themed poem with a Marian flavor that would be out of copyright and appropriate to set. I hope you are as happy with what I found as I am.
Words by GK Chesterton
Music by PF Anderson
Please note license: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)
The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.