Bethlehem Down


Composer: Warlock, Peter
Arranger: R. Stevens
Ensemble: S/AATB Saxophone Quartet
Format: Score 2pp, S/AATB Parts 1 pg ea.
Length (appx): 2.25 min with all repeats
Difficulty: Grade 2 (easy)

Bethlehem Down

Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930)

S/AATB Saxophone Quartet

Bethlehem Down by Peter Warlock, arranged for S/AATB saxophone quartet. This Christmas carol is a high point of Peter Warlock’s output and one of the most poignant pieces in the repertoire of British Christmas music. It was the winning entry of the 1927 Daily Telegraph Christmas carol competition. Peter Warlock is remembered for his musical criticism, his pioneering work in reintroducing Tudor music to Britain in the 1920’s, and a few musical works including The Capriol Suite and little masterpieces such as Bethlehem Down.

This arrangement of Bethlehem Down is for SATB or AATB Saxophone Quartet and is in the original key.

  • The range for each saxophone part is shown below.
  • Audio and score excerpts are available above.
  • Registered users can download a complete sample score and full length audio file of Bethlehem Down on the ‘Samples’ tab.

There is a story about the composition of Bethlehem Down: in 1927 the Daily Telegraph ran a Christmas carol competition with a cash prize for the winning entry. Warlock and friend Bruce Blunt (a poet, journalist, and lyricist) entered the contest in hopes of winning the prize to fund, in their words, ‘an immortal carouse’ – or a holiday bout of festivities and heavy drinking in London. The carol won, and they achieved their primary aim on Christmas Eve.

Though the piece was written with base aims in mind, Warlock and Blunt managed to create something sublime and timeless – a moment of repose and reflection amid the usual glorification and exultation of Christmas music. Bethlehem Down is indebted to Warlock’s interest in Tudor music, with expressive dissonances one might find in Gibbons or Tallis but enhanced by a Twentieth-Century palette. The form of the work is simple with much repetition providing stability for the subtle chromatic language.


See all our Christmas music for saxophone ensembles.


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