Peter Warlock was the pseudonymn of Philip Heseltine (1894–1930), whose principal legacy was an important body of solo song. Bethlehem Down
, with its gentle lilt and tenderness riven with sadness, is a brilliant marriage of music and words. Yet it was created in a mood of flippancy due to the impecunious state of Warlock and his poet friend Bruce Blunt (who were both notorious for their Bohemian behaviour). As Blunt recalled: ‘In December 1927, we were both extremely hard up, and, in the hope of being able to get suitably drunk at Christmas, conceived the idea of collaborating on another carol which should be published in a daily paper. So, walking on a moonlit night between the “Plough” at Bishop’s Sutton and the “Anchor” at Ropley, I thought of the words of “Bethlehem Down”. I sent them off to Philip in London, the carol was completed in a few days and published (words and music) in The Daily Telegraph
on Christmas Eve. We had an immortal carouse on the proceeds and decided to call ourselves “Carols Consolidated”.’ In this new arrangement David Hill has combined the accompaniment of the later solo-song version with the original for a cappella voices.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2006