Advent Carol for December 9: Personent Hodie

I can remember singing, or at least hearing, an English language version of this, but traditionally it is sung in Latin and is kind of terrifying. This is all the fault of Gustav Holst, whose setting this is, and whose use of unison singing combined with that crashing organ part goes not at all well with the words, which if you translate them are certainly steadfast and vigorous, but not actively frightening. However, despite its sixteenth-century Scandinavian origin as a song sung on St Nicholas’s Day (December 6th, so I am playing hard and fast with our dates here, sorry), it has in more recent times become associated with the massacre of the innocents (I know! It’s surprising how many people must at some stage have thought this was an occasion to be sung about), and so I imagine it’s intentionally disconcerting. Tomorrow’s song is sweetness and light, I promise.