Un Enfant Nouveau-Né
Elizabeth Coxhead and Thomas Coxhead

Composer Elizabeth Coxhead and Thomas Coxhead
Text Joseph Gélineau
Voicing SATB, a cappella
Topics Christmas
Lectionary usage Christmas Eve, Christmas
Price $2.25 (U.S.)
Length 3' 00" Released 11/2021
Catalog no. 405-241
Difficulty Mod. easy

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Sister and brother composing duo Elizabeth and Thomas Coxhead have set a Christmas poem by Joseph Gélineau (in the original French). The music is based entirely around the opening melody, which is treated as an unadorned tune, canonically, and accompanied with rich harmonies. The texture of the overall piece is palindromic: beginning with a solo soprano, moving to soprano duo, and then full SATB, before going backwards again. Much like the Coxheads’ popular "My Eyes for Beauty Pine," the overall effect is exquisite and gently beautiful, and suitable for performance even by a vocal quartet or quintet.

Aujour-d'hui, le Roi des Cieux
au milieu de la nuit
Voulut naittre chez nous
de la Vierge Marie.

Pour sauver le genre humain
l'arracher au péché
Ramener au Seigneur
ses enfants. égarés.

En ces lieux durant la nuit
demeuraient des bergers
Qui gardaient leurs troupeaux
dans les champs de Judée.

Or, un ange du Seigneur
apparut dans les cieux
Et la gloire de Dieu
resplendit autour d'eux.

L'ange dit: 'Ne craignez pas;
soyez tous dans la joie
Un Sauveur vous est né,
C'est le Christ, votre Roi'.

'Près d'ici, vous trouverez
dans une étable, couché
D'un lange emmailloté,
un enfant nouveau-né.


On this day our Heav'nly King
let himself be born our kin,
underneath the starlit sky
in a manger he did lie.
Born to save us from our sin,
welcoming God’' glory in,
to bring back unto the Lord,
all his children to the fold.

All that night evading sleep,
shepherds watched their flocks of sheep
in the fields of Judea,
up upon the hilltops near.
Now an angel of the Lord
appeared to them in rays of gold,
smiling on the humble men,
as God’s glory shone on them.

Angel said, 'Be not afraid,
your Saviour’s in a manger laid,
Down below the hilltop steep,
in a stable sound asleep,
Wrapped in swathing bands, this child,
in Mary’s arms, his mother mild,
Born the human race to save,
Christ the King a newborn babe.'

--tr. Elizabeth Coxhead

review copy

"Three verses of Joseph Gélineau’s 1992 hymn, frequently paired with the tune The First Nowell, appear with a new tune in this gentle carol. The original melody is half the length of a stanza, thus two iterations of the tune are required for each verse. The first verse is sung by unison sopranos and sopranos in canon. The following two statements are given to full choir in the same harmonization. The final pair begins with tenors carrying the melody with a slightly different harmonization surrounding them and a final half-verse returning to the divided soprano canon. In both four-part harmonizations, only the melody is given words while the other voices sing on 'ah.' The canon has a couple of instances of ineffective voice leading that is perhaps excusable by the fact of them being generated by the strict canonic operation. Alternately, the verses in canon could be sung in unison or in one of the other harmonizations provided. In all, this simple carol with French text would cause little difficulty to any choir accustomed to singing unaccompanied." -AAM Journal, Nov. 2021


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