Boughton: Bethlehem

Boughton: Bethlehem

Holst Singers, City of London Sinfonia, Alan G Melville (conductor)


Bethlehem, the third of Rutland Boughton's ten music dramas, was the first to be written with specific reference to the conditions that prevailed at the Glastonbury Festivals which he founded in 1914. Ironically it was also the work which, in a provocative modern-dress production, precipitated the collapse the festivals at the end of 1926. It was composed in 1915 and first performed on 28 December, not in Glastonbury itself but at the Crispin Hall in the neighbouring village of Street where his staunchest supporters, Roger, Sarah, and John Bright Clark, had established their famous shoe factory. The work was an immediate success and became the mainstay of each successive Christmas Festival and its associated tour of the West Country. After publication in 1920 it was also widely taken up by amateur societies and was soon to be heard in every part of the English-speaking world. Despite the record-breaking London runs of The Immortal Hour in 1922/23, Bethlehem has probably, over the years, achieved the greater number of individual performances and productions — its simplicity and sincerity going straight to the heart and transcending both time and fashion in a manner that is summed up by the dedication Boughton placed at the head of the score: 'To my children, and all children.'

Newsletter Sign Up