I was reading an article on Frances Chesterton, wife of G. K. Chesterton, only to discover that she wrote a Christmas hymn that I learned in the 4th grade. I remember it well because my family had just moved from the suberbs of windy Chicago to the kudzu-covered hills of South Carolina. We had just begun to attend a small church in the town of Clemson and for the Christmas program that year the children’s choir sang, “How Far is It To Bethlehem?” While I still remember most of the words, I must say I didn’t realize it’s beauty and depth as I read it the other day.
The Chestertons loved Christmas. They had a stage built right in their house for home productions and they put on a Christmas Eve production each year. While her husband was very famous and his works well known, Frances’ poems, plays and books are less known, and she liked it that way. The poem “How Far is It to Bethlehem? was written for their Christmas card in 1917. My interested has been piqued in this humble, unique woman, and I’ve add to my Christmas list, The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown.
I have just completed a setting of “How Far Is It To Bethlehem?” for violin & piano or viola & piano. This text is set to the traditional English carol, STOWEY, and I wove in the Irish aire, THE SOUTH WIND, into the arrangement. The piano and violin/ viola pass the melody for both STOWEY and THE SOUTH WIND back and forth. The arrangement is set in the key of G, and can be played in its entirety in first position making it accessible for late beginers on up. Sign up for our mailing list to download your free copy.