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Watch: Stunning rendition of Suo Gân from Carols from King’s

24 Dec 2023 3 minute read
King’s College Chapel. Image: CC BY-SA 3.0

Stephen Price

The order of service has appeared online for the celebrated Carols from King’s which airs tonight on BBC2, and with no Welsh inclusions this year, what better time to replay a moving version of Suo Gân.

Opening, as ever, with Once in Royal David’s City, the service was recorded at the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge by the BBC early in December. And for those who may wish to sing along, you can read or download the latest Carols from King’s service booklet here.

Old favourites

With familiar favourites such as In the Bleak Midwinter, Silent Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, the service also includes lesser-known hymns such as The Bee Carol – winner of the 2023 Radio 3 Carol Competition.

The story of the nativity will be read by members of King’s College in the words of the King James Bible and in poems by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, Marion Strobel, Thomas Hardy and Walter de la Mare.

As with previous years, King’s College stress that the service may not be broadcast in its entirety due to time restrictions, and may not be in the order printed due to film editing.

Back in 2016, many in Wales were taken by surprise to hear the familiar lyrics and melody of Suo Gân sung beautifully by the choir from King’s College.

The gentle lullaby first appeared in print in 1800, with the lyrics captured by Welsh folklorist, Robert Bryan.

Nativity scene

The title of the song simply means ‘lullaby’ – suo, meaning lull, cân meaning song, and its fame has travelled the world, much in part to an iconic inclusion in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, where it was lip-synched by a young Christian Bale, who was born in Haverfordwest.

Whilst perhaps not intended as a Christmas carol, it’s certainly joined the ranks of others nowadays, with the simple lyrics lending themselves perfectly to a very human, doting image of the nativity.

Huna blentyn ar fy mynwes,
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon;
Breichiau mam sy’n dynn amdanat,
Cariad mam sy dan fy mron;
Ni chaiff dim amharu’th gyntun,
Ni wna undyn â thi gam;
Huna’n dawel, annwyl blentyn,
Huna’n fwyn ar fron dy fam.

Sleep child upon my bosom,
It is cosy and warm;
Mother’s arms are tight around you,
A mother’s love is in my breast;
Nothing shall disturb your slumber,
Nobody will do you harm;
Sleep in peace, dear child,
Sleep quietly on your mother’s breast.

Where and when to watch

Carols from Kings airs on BBC2 today (Christmas Eve) at 6:40pm, followed shortly after on iPlayer, and is repeated on BBC2 on Christmas day at 9am. You can view the order of service here.

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