Il est ne le divin enfant (He is born, the divine child) is a 19th century French traditional Christmas carol based on the melody of a 17th century Normandy hunting song entitled La tête bizarde. Gabriel Fauré’s setting of the carol was created on the 23rd December 1888 for a Christmas Eve church service at L’église de la Madeleine in Paris. Despite being a committed agnostic his involvement with La Madeleine spanned much of his career, providing him with a steady income: he had been assistant organist to his teacher, Saint-Saëns, since 1874, became choirmaster in 1877 before being promoted to principal organist from 1896-1905. In 1924 his funeral was also held there, at which his Requiem (which was premièred in the church in 1888) was performed.
Over the centuries this beautiful carol has been reworked in many different guises – ranging from a traditional choral treatment by John Rutter to highly individual versions uniquely sung by Edith Piaff, Annie Lennox, the Swingle Singers, Demis Roussos and Siouxsie and the Banshees … to name but a few!
Fauré’s version, incorporating his highly recognisable style and harmonic fingerprint, was scored for unison treble choir together with a rather unusual chamber ensemble of oboe, harp, organ, two cellos and double bass. Here Fauré’s music is here presented in an arrangement for wind quintet.