This Cantata was originally written in 1975 for a commission by the Birmingham Festival Choral Society, conductor Jeremy Patterson. It was first performed by them in December 1975 in St. Martin’s in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, in the United Kingdom. It has subsequently been revised in 2010.
A review of the first performance, given by David Hart in the Birmingham Post, is as follows:
‘The musical style is clear and direct and the choral writing has rhythmic vitality and ingenuity to give it a sense of purpose. Mr Dedman uses choral speaking, shouts and handclaps in an effective, ungratuitous way, too. His keen ear for texture is most apparent in the fascinating accompaniment which is scored for the unlikely combination of recorder and flute, percussion and organ. The sounds produced are dramatic, colourful, quite sensuous in an eastern sort of way and immediately attractive.’
It is written for SATB choir with a soprano soloist from the choir, a male speaker with flute, doubling treble recorder, percussion and organ. The words are of the traditional Christmas story taken from the Jerusalem Bible, original version.
The instrumental parts act less as an accompaniment, rather to supply added drama to the story and instrumental colour. The Cantata is in seven movements: an instrumental Prelude depicting a vision of the beginning of time; ‘The Word’; ‘The Annunciation’; ‘The Virginal Conception of Christ’; ‘Magnificat’; ‘The Birth of Jesus and Visit of the Shepherds’ and an ‘Epilogue’.