Advent Calendar Day 24: Quem Vidistis Pastores – Poulenc

Alright, I am going to tear myself reluctantly out of the baroque era and leap forward into the middle of the 20th century, where we find the French composer, Francis Poulenc bringing a more mysterious and spooky flair to the whole shepherds-abiding-in-the-fields situation.

I mean, we’ve just had two settings of ‘Behold, I bring you glad tidings’, neither of which started with the all-important ‘Fear not!’ part.  Listening to this, one gets the impression that Poulenc thought that the fear part of this was quite important – or at least worth recognising.

Rather than quoting the gospel directly, Poulenc has chosen to make this piece about a conversation between the shepherds and someone who met them shortly after everything happened.  The lyrics in English are:

Whom did you see, shepherds; speak, tell us: who has appeared on earth?  The newborn child we saw, and choirs of angels praising the Lord.  Tell of what you saw, and announce Christ’s birth.


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