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Twenty Polish Christmas Carols

Twenty Polish Christmas Carols (Polish: 20 polskich kolęd) is a collection of Polish carols arranged for soprano and piano in 1946 by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) and then orchestrated by him for soprano, female choir and orchestra in 1984–89.[1] The music and lyrics were taken mostly from 19th-century printed sources.[2][3][4]


Twenty Polish Christmas Carols is a composition by Witold Lutosławski. It is based on Christmas carols collected by the composer in 1946 in Poland at the request of the Director of the Polish Music Publishing.

In the years leading up to this event, occupation by Nazi Germany and The Soviet Union had had a devastating effect on Poland. The post-war years were times of daily hardship. The cultural sphere was influenced by conservative ideologies and the totalitarian authorities in place at the time. In such a climate, collecting Christmas carols was a relatively safe and harmless activity.

Arranging the collected Christmas Carols, Lutosławski first wrote for only voice and piano. Aniela Szleminska (soprano) and Jan Hoffman then performed a part of the completed work in Kraków.

The work then disappeared until almost 40 years later, when Lutoslawski re-arranged the carols for soprano, a female chorus and orchestra.

On December 15, 1985 this version was performed for the first time. Marie Slorach sang accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra with a choir.

On December 14, 1990 the Chamber Orchestra of Scotland, with accompanying choir, played the work with soloist Susan Hamilton in Edinburgh. This version was equipped with English-language texts, while all previous versions had been performed in Polish.

Twenty Polish Christmas Carols have been likened to folk-song pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams[citation needed].

The Polish texts were drawn from books:

  • Śpiewnik Kościelny - collection of Polish 19th century sacred songs by Michał Mioduszewski (1838–1853)
  • Pastorałki i kolędy z melodyjami – collection of 17th to 19th century Polish sacred Christmas carols by Michał Mioduszewski (1843)
  • Lud vol.16: Lubelskie by Oskar Kolberg (1883)
  • Lud vol.22: Leczyckie by Oskar Kolberg (1899)


No. English title [3] Original title in Polish [2] Length
1 The angels came to the shepherds Aniol Pasterzom Mowił
2 Hey, We look forward now on Hej, weselmy się
3 When Christ has come to us Gdy się Chrystus rodzi
4 just after midnight Północ już była
5 God is born Bóg się rodzi
6 Our Lady Gdy śliczna Panna
7 Hurrying to Bethlehem Przybieżeli do Betlejem
8 Lying in the manger W żłobie leży
9 Jesus is there Jezus malusieńki
10 we are shepherds My też pastuszkowie
11 Sleep Jesus Lulajże Jezuniu
12 On this day Hej, w dzień narodzenia
13 Jesus lovely flower Jezu, śliczny kwiecie
14 Hay la, Hey la, shepherds, there you Hola hola, pasterze z pola
15 What to do with this child A cóż z tą dzieciną
16 Hey, hey, lovely Lady Mary Hej hej, lelija Panna Maryja
17 This is God's birthday Z narodzenia Pana
18 Shepherds, can tell you what you have seen Pasterze mili
19 Infant so tiny Dziecina mała
20 Holy Mother Mary (ran through the wide world) Najświętsza Panienka po świecie chodziła ().


  • Soprano
  • SSAA (sopranos and altos )
  • 1 flute, 1 oboe / cor anglais, 2 clarinets (II also bass clarinet), 1 bassoon
  • Two horns, one trumpet, one trombone
  • Percussion, 1 harp, piano
  • Violins, violas, cellos, double basses


  1. ^ Richard Whitehouse. Liner notes to Naxos CD 8.555994, Lutoslawski, 20 Polish Christmas Carols, 2005
  2. ^ a b Lutosławski, Witold (2007), 20 kolęd na głos i fortepian, Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne SA, Seria Jubileuszowa, archived from the original on October 30, 2013, retrieved October 30, 2013
  3. ^ a b Lutosławski, Witold (2007), 20 Kolęd. Album by Lutosławski, Grooveshark Profile, archived from the original on March 29, 2014, retrieved October 30, 2013
  4. ^ Lutosławski, Witold (2006), 20 polskich kolęd (Twenty Polish Christmas Carols), Adam Mickiewicz Institute, retrieved October 30, 2013

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