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In the Bleak Midwinter

About the Song

Words by Christina Rossetti
Melody by Gustav Holst
Arranged by Sally DeFord

The average low temperature in the areas around Bethlehem in December is 43 degrees F. The record low is 30 degrees F. The average low in April is 50F, the record low is 32F.

In whatever part of the calendar year you may believe the Savior was born, I really don’t think that the first stanza of “In the Bleak Midwinter” is meant to be a literal description of the conditions in Bethlehem at Christ’s birth.

To me, it feels like an allegory. When Jesus was born, we humans had been living on this earth for several thousand years, sometimes getting things right, but much more often getting things very, very wrong.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining…

What could be colder, more chilling than century on century of wrong upon wrong upon wrong? Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone… until the Son of God came into the world bringing the warmth of heaven’s love to melt away the hardness in the hearts of mankind. At least, that’s the way I like to think of it.

I used only the first and last stanzas of the poem for this version. The accompaniments on the SSSA and SSATB are identical.

Spotify, Soundcloud (inc. free downloads)

Click the Soundcloud download icon to download the free track for personal use.

Recording featuring vocals by Allyse Smith Taylor:

Accompaniment track:

Apple Music, Amazon

These files may be copied/shared in any quantity in any physical format unless otherwise noted. They may not be re-sold or offered for download.


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In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago. 

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

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  1. Jennifer McFadden

    This is a beautiful arrangement that I’m singing at my ward Christmas party this year. Thank you!

  2. Julie Griffin

    I absolutely love this beautiful arrangement!! I am a soprano and this fits so well. On the accompaniment, I wish there were the background vocals too…. but still lovely. I wish there were more opportunities to sing with a recorded accompaniment like this! Thank you!

  3. Rena j

    I like your take on this. Thinking about an art project and music poetry lesson for my 5th-6th graders at Paragould FUMC in Arkansas. Thank you!

  4. Jessica

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful arrangements with us! Do you happen to have an arrangement with a viola part?

  5. James Hunt

    Most Gifted Sally,
    I have several of your Christmas carol sheet music pieces and I must say that Silent Night/Still Still Still stops me in my tracks. You have such a harmonic and arranging gift. I had come across the carol “In The Bleak Mid Winter” and so wanted to hear your arrangement but no arrangement for piano solo exists that you post. I would love to hear and attempt to play an arrangement of this carol by you. Could there be a Christmas Gift to us from your gifted mind in the future? Still Still Still reaches the place in the heart where music and emotion are one. We players of your music would love such a gift, but this can only be a request and not an expectation, that would be presumptuous and unfair for you. This is just a request from me.
    Thank you immensely for that you have shared!

  6. Yvonne Allen

    Dear Sally, I have been thinking of you for years with a grateful heart and often with tears in my eyes for your beautiful music! Thank you for sharing this incredible music with the world–and so generously for free! You feel like a good friend! You are surely a “go-to” when I need something beautiful, uplifting and in a touching and soul stirring arrangement. A couple of friends and I shared “In A Bleak Midwinter” recently in a program at our local Church of Jesus Christ Temple Visitor’s Center. We all loved it!
    Thank you. Merry Christmas!

  7. Janet Welsh

    This is such a beautiful arrangement! I’m wondering if you will be creating a piano solo version at any point?

  8. Amanda

    Do you have the vocal solo version available?

    • sallydeford

      Amanda, I don’t have a solo score separate from the others. Just use the SSAA score and sing the melody throughout.

  9. Jim Jordan

    I am Music Director for two churches, one Presbyterian and one UCC. I will be using this beautiful arrangement with both. Thank you for such wonderful spiritual resources!

  10. Bonnie Caldwell

    One of my alltime favorite carols. Thank you for these arrangements!

    • Tracey L. Carpenter (Olson)

      Bonnie Caldwell—-from Midvale Utah?

  11. Tammy

    Sally, thank you for your website. You do a great service for members of the church all over the world by providing free printable arrangements of hymns and other sacrament-appropriate music! I was asked at the last minute to sing a song in sacrament meeting the Sunday before Christmas. I wanted to sing “In the Bleak Midwinter” and began searching online for an arrangement that I liked that was also available to me immediately and not too expensive. I wasn’t finding that until I thought to check your website for it. Voilá! You had an arrangement that I liked, that was available for me to print immediately, and that was free! Thank you so much for sharing your arrangements with others. I received many comments from ward members who enjoyed the musical number. I also like your little blurbs about the background of the song. What you said about the image of snow in the song “In the Bleak Midwinter” was perfect. And I used your explanation to help others understand the song.

  12. Mandy Powrie

    I always read the “about this song” section on your website – and I really appreciate that it’s there, thank you!


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