Christmas story - sheet music and nativity play performance material

Ever since the Reformation brought the reading of scripture and preaching to the forefront of the liturgy, the term ’Historia’ or ’history’ denoted a biblical narrative and was used synonymously with ’salvation history’. Thus at first the Passion and the events of Easter were in the foreground, but soon nativity plays became popular. Occasionally, other vivid acts such as the Ascension or the sending of the Holy Spirit were also set to music.

If the biblical text was initially reproduced unchanged, song verses or other texts were soon inserted, which made it difficult to distinguish it from the oratorio. Instruments were also included, and recorders and shawms lent the pastoral scenes a rustic colouring. Probably theatrical aspects also played a role: Schütz’ Christmas story has been performed under a canopy with Mary, Joseph and the manger.

In the 20th century the genre experienced a revival under the name of ’history’ or - incorrectly, actually - ’oratorio’, to which numerous modern works bear witness.

A Selection of german musical nativity plays: