‘The Bethlehem Star’ was composed by Bob Chilcott in memory of Alan Greaves, a church organist from Sheffield, who was fatally attacked as he walked to church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2012.
The composer came across this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins shortly after Alan’s death, and decided to set it in his memory.
The Bethlehem Star
Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, O Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethl’em star may lead me
To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou were lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin on Christmas day.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-1899
Mr. Greaves’ widow was delighted with the tribute, and the vicar who worked with the organist said:
“Bob Chilcott has a glowing reputation among choirs in Britain and the USA for his accessible and beautifully crafted choral music, and especially in regard to his Christmas carols. His new carol for unaccompanied choir has a simple melody but the arrangement is beguilingly beautiful and achingly sad; it is a miniature gem of a carol, deeply touching without being sentimental. I hope that many choirs will add it to their repertoire in the coming years. I think that it is deeply touching that Bob Chilcott, who never met Alan, should relate to the terrible attack upon him by creating beauty out of such an ugly event. I cannot think of a more appropriate and beautiful way of honouring Alan’s ministry as a church musician.”
Bob Chilcott, Composer