In the Bleak Midwinter, arr. (orig. Holst)

SATB chorus, s.a. solos, piano or harp

This arrangement of Gustav Holst's tune is a sweet, lyrical gem for high school chorus and up. A glittering piano paints a vast snowy landscape, then steadily provides more support as a treble solo (or soli) emerges for the first verse. Chorus parts divide to layer "snow on snow" then grow to welcome the "homeless stranger" (secular text by John Storey). Two soloists descant in the final, touching verse, singing: "What can I give you?" Integrates well with children's voices (verses 1 & 4), or even congregational singing/humming in the last verse. [Piano part may also be played on harp.]


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Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
Total Pages: 
Commissioned By: 
Ruth Palmer
Premiere Date: 
Premiere Ensemble: 
Unity Choir; Unity Church-Unitarian, Saint Paul, MN
Premiere Conductor: 
Ruth Palmer
See video

BYU Singers (Ron Staheli, conductor)
Century College Choir (Jocelyn Kalajian)
Concert Choir of University High School, IL (Chris Corpus, conductor)
Choir of East Side Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls (Glenyta Hanson, director)
Greenville College Choir, IL (Jeff Wilson, conductor)
IUP Chorus (James Dearing, conductor)
Madrigalia (Lee Wright, conductor)
Oakwood High School Chorus (Rich Brunner, conductor)
Oral Robert University Chorale (Edward Pierce, conductor)
The Phipps Center for the Arts Festival Chorus (Thomas Dahle, conductor)
Lincoln Civic Choir (William Wyman, conductor)
Nova Singers (Laura Lane, conductor)
Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia (Mark Anderson, conductor)
South Bend Chamber Singers (Nancy Menk, conductor)
Thunder Bay Arts Council Chorus, MI
Unity Choir (Ruth Palmer, conductor)
USC Thornton School of Music
UW-Oshkosh Chamber Choir (Carl Chapman, conductor)
Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota (Garrett Lathe, conductor)


For the national reading session, I recommended . . . "In the Bleak Midwinter" (Betinis): Building upon the Holst melody, a divisi accompaniment is created in harmonizing parts. The piano accompaniment is harp-like and the two soloists provide an innocence over the choir hums in the last verse. Great for teaching line and phrasing.
- Karen Fulmer, NWACDA Repertoire & Standards High School Chair. From "Creative Planning and Programming for High School Choirs."

Text Author or Source: 
Christina Rossetti (modified), John Andrew Storey (v. 2)

In the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter long ago.

Christ a homeless stranger,
so the gospels say,
cradled in a manger
and a bed of hay;
in the bleak midwinter,
a stable place sufficed,
Mary and her baby, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have thronged the air,
Shepherds, beasts and wise men,
May have gathered there,
But only his mother
In her tender bliss
Blessed this new redeemer
With a kiss.

What can I give you,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give you:
Give my heart.

I give my heart...

Verse 1 by Christina Rossetti, verse 2 by John Andrew Storey, verses 3 & 4 by Rossetti, modified A. Betinis. These texts are in the public domain, and may be reprinted from this website for use in concert programs and for promotional use as related to this musical work.