This is a tuneful, contemporary setting of a multi-verse carol for choir a cappella using an original melody. It starts with a statement by the alto section and gradually adds parts and harmonic variations. The unusual time signature of 5/4 provides a lilt and propels the piece forward. All parts sing the melody along the way. A few climactic measures split into more than 4 parts; otherwise the writing is SATB throughout. The final verse can be performed by treble/female solo or semi-chorus.
The words were written by poet and essayist Dora Greenwell who was born on December 6, 1821 near Durham, England. She devoted much of her life to helping the local poor and visiting convicts in Durham prison. She was an advocate of better education for women and their right to vote. She was a friend of Christina Rossetti, another great poet of this time; they both shared an interest in theology. Two of her poems serve as texts for the Methodist hymn book although she herself was an Anglican (her brother, William Greenwell was canon at Durham Cathedral). She died on March 29, 1882 near Bristol, England.