If purchasing for performance, the quantity must be equal to the number of performers
for mixed voices (SATB with divisi) a cappella
Text: English or Norwegian
Duration: c4 minutes
Lovely is the dark blue sky is extracted from Nordic Christmas, a collection of carols commissioned by VocalEssence in honor of Sons of Norway as it celebrates 125 years as a financial services and international cultural organization.
My approach to arranging this carol, as well as the other carols in Nordic Christmas, was to look at the text (originally in Danish by Nikolai Grundtvig, 1783–1872) and its background to see if there are new meanings hidden in the material. Perhaps there are circumstances around its creation or messages the original authors were trying to say that somehow get lost in the way they are interpreted today. Lovely is the dark blue sky is usually performed as a lustrous up-tempo carol, but thinking of Grundtvig’s story and life, writing this text between episodes of severe mental illness, and his vision of a child looking at the dark blue sky at night, I made the atmosphere of this arrangement more dreamy, still and full of wonder. I still wanted to keep it childlike, with the choir singing tenderly and the soprano solo is ideally sung by a child.
The melody was written ‘by an old man who had never before composed any music’, as stated in the 1853 hymnbook in which this melody first appeared. It is the only known composition of its writer, the Norwegian-Danish Jacob Gerhard Meidell (1778–1857), who was a captain in the Danish Army and later a customs inspector in Copenhagen. The text was written by one of the great Danish hymn writers, N F S Grundtvig in 1810. It was written between a manic and a depressive episode. During a time of being well, he wanted to write about Christmas through the eyes of a child. The message is simple, as a children’s song with storybook elements.
Lovely is the dark blue sky,
Joy to see for every eye;
How the golden stars are blinking,
How they’re smiling, how they’re winking
From the earth to Heaven high!
In the midst of Christmas night,
Through the dark a glimmering light;
Suddenly we saw appearing
Brightest flame, the heavens clearing,
Like a little star-sun bright.
Blessed star, as bright as day,
Toward the Child you light the way;
Bright and glorious through the ages
As foretold in sacred pages,
Shine upon our path, we pray!
English translation by Charles Anthony Silvestri,
Kim André Arnesen and Anon
Kim André Arnesen
Arnesen is one of the most frequently performed composers from Norway today. He grew up in Trondheim where he was a chorister in Nidaros Cathedral, later being educated at the Music Conservatory in Trondheim. With an interest in baroque music, contemporary classical music, and popular music, Kim could have taken many roads, but choral music became his greatest passion. His works have been performed in more than 30 countries around the world. His albums Magnificat (2014) and Infinity (2018) received excellent reviews and reached the top of the iTunes classical charts. He continues to enjoy a busy international schedule of commissions as well as guest appearances at festivals and other choral events. Arnesen has been a house composer at Boosey & Hawkes since 2017.