Christmas Lullaby A Growing Favorite

Local composer believes song was divinely inspired

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"A new star has risen to hail thee divine, For you are a king, But tonight you are mine...," reads a line in a poem about the Virgin Mary's simple, heartfelt love for her newly born child.

The work, originally titled "A Yuletide Lullaby," was written in 1967 by Arizona poet Bertha Kleinman -- then 90 years of age -- when she was asked by a friend to write a poem for a Christmas program.

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The Christmas song "Mary's Lullaby" will be performed at two Rim Country churches during holiday services.

The poem was given to Christopher Creek resident Wanda West Palmer in 1967 to write accompanying music.

The month was December. Palmer liked the poem, but it was too close to Christmas to find time to devote to the task, so she placed it in her purse.

Two years later, the composer was in a beauty shop and, looking through her purse, found the poem.

"Instead of looking at the first line of the poem, which began ‘The cedars of Lebanon incense the night,'" she said, "my eyes fell on the third stanza, ‘All mine in your loveliness, Baby, all mine ....' I looked at the words and said, ‘Wanda, where have you been all this time?'

"I began to sing the song and I sang it all the way through." She changed only one word, substituting "wise men" for "magi," feeling that the word substitution made it "a little more musical."

Then, she said, "I repeated ‘All mine in your loveliness, all mine. All mine in your holiness divine.'" The title of the music became "Mary's Lullaby," with the subtitle "Tonight You Are Mine."

Upon leaving the beauty shop the day of her inspiration, she said, "I told the beauty operator, ‘I just wrote a song.' The minute I began singing the words, the melody was there, the accompaniment was there. It was so simple. It was simple, and it was just the way it was meant to be."

The composer feels that the poet's words were divinely inspired. "I believe that when Bertha Kleinman heard those words and wrote them down that they were written in the heavens, and I believe the music was there, but she didn't ask for music -- she only asked for the words. I asked for the music."

Palmer said that as she played the song, she could hear the very quiet strums of a guitar or an instrument that was used in biblical times. "I usually have to work for my accompaniment," she added, "but this was there. It was just there. Melodies come easily for me. Accompaniment, I have to work for."

Music professors have told her she has a natural gift for melody, though, she said, "When I write music, I depend on my ear and not necessarily the knowledge of the exactness of music theory. Sometimes I have to work on the theory."

With orchestration recorded in 1986 in London by the London Symphony under the direction of Dr. Robert Bowden, Covenant Recording of American Fork, Utah made a final recording of "Mary's Lullaby" in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle with the Utah State Concert Choir, the Logan Community Choir and soloist Anna Marie Cox Roberts. The recording is presently being remastered and will soon be available again at two Deseret Book Stores in Mesa -- on Mesa Drive off Main Street and at Gilbert and Southern.

Shortly before Kleinman died, Palmer made it possible for her to hear the musical rendition of her poem. The two women had been next-door neighbors when Palmer was young. "I took a special trio that sang my songs at that time, and we went to her home. We sang the song for her and got her permission to change the title to ‘Mary's Lullaby' as that is the part of the poem we used. She approved, and she died not too long after that. The wonderful thing, I tell people, is that you're not too old to create at 90."

"Mary's Lullaby," which has been sung in many churches in the United States and throughout the world, has also been included in the Mesa Temple Easter Pageant. "It is the largest annual Easter pageant in the world," Palmer said, adding, "I wrote most of the music that is in the pageant."

Palmer, who has written more than 30 songs, had "Mary's Lullaby" copyrighted in 1972. It will be presented at the Christopher Creek Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a service beginning at noon Christmas day. It will also be sung at the 7:30 p.m. service Christmas Eve at Payson United Methodist Church.

Mary's Lullaby (Tonight You Are Mine)

All mine in your loveliness, Baby, all mine;

All mine in your holiness, Baby Divine.

Sing on, herald angels, in chorus sublime;

Sing on and adore, For tonight you are mine.

The wise men are coming to worship their king.

The shepherds are kneeling, their homage to bring.

Out yonder, the star over Judah will keep;

No harm can befall thee, then sleep, Baby, sleep.

Oh, let me enfold thee, my baby, tonight;

While legions are singing in joyous delight.

A new star has risen to hail thee divine,

For you are a king, But tonight you are mine.

Away spectered future of sorrow and plight.

Away to the years that must follow tonight.

The pangs of Gethsemane, let them be dim;

The red drops on Calvary, not, Lord, for him!

Oh, let me enfold thee, my baby, tonight;

While legions are singing in joyous delight.

A new star has risen to hail thee divine,

For you are a king, But tonight you are mine.

All mine in your loveliness, Baby, all mine;

All mine in your holiness, Baby Divine.

Sing on, herald angels, in chorus sublime;

Sing on and adore, For tonight you are mine.

Listen to Mary's Lullaby (mp3 audio file)

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