For treble voices and harp

When still incomplete, the work was described as 'for children's voices' in a letter of 30 September 1942, but as 'for women's voices' in the programme of the London première on 21 December 1942 and in the Radio Times announcement of the first broadcast. The programme of the first performance of the revised version describes it as 'for boys' choir and harp'.

, op. 28
Period of composition: Mar - Oct 1942
Revised: summer 1943

Nos 4a and 7 were added when the work was revised. See also 'Notes' below.

First performance: 5 Dec 1942 >>
Type of performance: Concert performance
Location: Norwich Castle, Norwich
Performance details:

The women's voices of The Fleet Street Choir, Margaret Ritchie sop, Gwendolen Mason harp, T.B. Lawrence cond

Genre: Choral
Text: Various (see individual movements)
Performing forces:

Treble voices, harp

The score has the following note: 'The accompaniment of this work was designed for harp. If, however, this instrument is not available, a piano can be substituted, in which case no. 7 ('Interlude') should be omitted and there should be a short pause between nos 6 and 8'.

Duration: 23'
Dedication: 'For Ursula Nettleship'

Ursula Nettleship (1886-1968), singer and teacher.


The original order of the work, sketched by Britten while returning from America on the MS Axel Johnson, was: 1.'Hodie Christus natus est' (discarded); 2. 'There is no rose'; 2b. 'Balulalow'; 3. 'As dew in Aprille'; 4. 'This little babe'; 5. 'In freezing winter night'; 6. 'Deo Gracias'. After Britten arrived back in the UK in March 1942 he substituted the plainsong 'Procession' and 'Recession' for the original 'Hodie', and used the music of the discarded item for 'Wolcum yole', which became no. 2. 'Spring carol' was also added at this time.


Discarded Movements

  • Discarded: Hodie Christus natus est'' >>

    Replaced with 'Procession'. The music was used for 'Wolcum yole!'.