A different Christmas story about a donkey

It was starting to look as though I wouldn’t get around to adding another post before Christmas, such is this crazy time of year. I know it’s that way for everyone in December, but we had some sad news in my family this past week which has added some emotional strain to what is already a busy and stressful period for most people.

But I am posting, because I think for my own sanity I want to share something joyful, and Christmas is usually a time when people come together and stories are born. Probably a lot of people have a family story that begins “I remember this one Christmas when…”, and it might be happy, sad, hilarious or embarrassing. Whatever it is, most people have them. Including me, but what I actually want to share is not really a story of my own but a short tale about the story of a Christmas carol.

A few weeks ago I went to the end of year performance of the Brisbane Concert Choir, who sang a musical story called Brother Heinrich’s Christmas, by the well-known English composer John Rutter. I used to have a recording of the story about 15 years ago but I don’t think I’d heard it since, so it was wonderfully nostalgic for me to go and revisit the work. The narrator that night was excellent too. Rutter took the myth about the origin of the carol ‘In dulci jubilo’, and spun his own tale about the monk who is credited with writing it. It’s a delightful story, which features a donkey (played by the bassoon) who sings in the abbey choir and helps Brother Heinrich finish writing the carol just in time for a special service on Christmas Day. Sigismund – which I happen to think is a most excellent name for a donkey – only knows two notes and “they are almost always the wrong ones”, according to the Abbott. But if it weren’t for Sigismund… well… maybe we wouldn’t know the carol today!

The whole text of the story, as read by a narrator, can be found online here, and if you don’t want to go and find the whole recording on iTunes or similar then it’s probably a good idea to at least read the complete story before watching the short clip below. It’s fairly short. It would be a lovely story to read to children as well. (This is just a fragment of the work to give you a taste – it’s all I’ve had time to upload so far, but I highly recommend the Cambridge Singers recording of the whole thing.)

And finally, because it’s Christmas, I just want to share with you a recording from the recent CD from St John’s Cathedral. This is where I’ll be at midnight tonight, hopefully singing this!

Greetings of the season to you, whoever and wherever you are in the world. May it be wonderfully musical and full of shared stories. I’ll return again soon.


About Bronwyn

Brisbane-based editor and choral musician
This entry was posted in Choirs & Choral Music, Orchestras & Instrumental Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A different Christmas story about a donkey

  1. Sally Fyfield says:

    And a very Happy Christmas to you, too Bronwyn. Thanks for your interesting writing and lovely music.

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