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
Nos 4a and 7 were added when the work was revised. See also 'Notes' below.
The women's voices of The Fleet Street Choir, Margaret Ritchie sop, Gwendolen Mason harp, T.B. Lawrence cond
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'.
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.