1. The City
2. The Journey
3. The Sleepers in the City
4. Mary's Song - Chorale
'The Winter Journey', written in 1946, is an attempt to place the Christmas story in the atmosphere of the world after World War II. The text is by Randall Swingler.
The journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem symbolises man's journey through the six years of war. The city at which their arrive is the post-war world.
Mary and Joseph tell us of the ordeal of their journey to Bethlehem and ask the question of the threatening city:
"Are you afraid of the life that we have brought you
Is it your fear that shuts the door."
Here there is nothing picturesque, and such parts of the poem as are narrative are austerely set as though their only purpose was to explain the main theme, the crisis caused by the Incarnation.
The music for all its austerity always sufficient and often beautiful. The five numbers are bound together internally by polyphony and externally by subtle repetitions and modifications of harmony and phrase. The listener is aware that the work hangs together but the Composer is not at pains to show him how this is achieved.
After an adagio introduction, containing themes given out in passionate cantabile the first chorus describes the busy city with its welcome for all except those who 'bring nothing but a burden of trouble'. The accompaniment is mainly in the staccato quavers suggested by the opening words "the city rustles like a rookery at evening", the same phrase welcoming with 'come in' all who bring in money and business, is used with irony for the greeting of Mary and Joseph - 'No room'.
The second number is Joseph's description of their journey and the faith which made them go on. This is a long piece of declamation whose beautiful moments stand in widely spaced relief in arid surroundings.
The third number is a short and hushed and highly imaginative chorus describing the sleepers in the City uneasily stirring; this is a splendid piece of writing that cannot fail. There follows an expressive appeal by Mary, who asks what shall be the future of the child, which represents the eternal hope of peace and harmony among mankind. This leads to a final chorale, in which the semi-chorus and chorus together point out the moral in austerely beautiful harmony, and concludes:
"Winter it may be in the streets of time,
And all in vain, and all in vain,
We made that journey through the waste and wild,
Unless we find some place to lay the child
That will be born, that will be born,
The Christmas in the season of the heart".