Il est né le Divin Enfant (He is born the Divine Child)

One of the most beloved chants de Noël (Christmas carols) in France.
The lyrics are mid-19th century, the music 17th century. I looked for the best versions on YouTube.

First, a beautiful interpretation by a children’s choir, the Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois. The tempo here is right (this carol is often sung too fast, which I feel detracts from its majesty.)

And then, of course, the greatest chanteuse ever, Edith Piaf.

In a different style, Siouxsie and the Banshees. The video is awfully grainy, but I love the arrangement. The horns, drums and cymbals are very true to the 17th century original music.

Enjoy!

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25 Comments to “Il est né le Divin Enfant (He is born the Divine Child)”

  1. Evelyn says:

    Such fun! This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and I enjoyed your choices. I never thought about Edith Piaf singing Christmas carols…quite a treat!

  2. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Evelyn! Edith Piaf was deeply religious, so it is not surprising that she sang this carol, but I had never heard this recording either before researching this post. This reminds me that I have to post a review of the wonderful Vie en Rose movie.

  3. Judith says:

    HI Catherine,
    In my high school French class (many, many moons ago) we had to learn this song & I will never forget every last word of it! Such memories! I don’t know why it stuck with me all of these years but I love it, thanks for the nostalgia today!
    Judith~

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    Judith – For me it is an early childhood memory (with the Midnight Mass and the life-size Nativity in the Church of Vic) but no matter how we learn about this song, it stays with us for a lifetime.

  5. I love them all! and I enjoyed the Vie en Rose film as well. ;)

  6. Marie-Helene Stordeur says:

    It may be possible to suggest that the Chorales be sung in moderate tempo, not too fast, but surely not too slowly – about A QUARTER NOTE = 72 to 80, in keeping with the sentiment of the text. They should be rendered in fairly strict tempo, without accentuations. At the pauses (.), one or two regular beats may be added to the value of the given notes.

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Amy – Delighted to see we have the same tastes.

    Marie-Helene – I certainly won’t argue with you on this. Joyeux Noel!

  8. Marie-helene says:

    I know , You can trust me on this one !

    Joyeux Noel a vous aussi, merci, et a William aussi !

    -Vous allez cuisiner ce Noel ?

    (J’ai cuit un jamnbon pour Thanks giving, excellent…Facile a faire , de 6pm a 2:30 am …cuit a l’eau doucement, avec des pics en bois pour le soutenir, sinon la peau crame… tres important.)

  9. Lucy says:

    Hi Catherine. I love this! I’m in Quebec and so I always hear the French Christmas songs. Beautiful! Have a Merry Christmas,
    Lucy

  10. Catherine Delors says:

    Marie-Helene – No, I won’t cook this Christmas. I will be at the home of my aunt and uncle in Tours, and they are both wonderful cooks. I am very fortunate…

    Lucy – Glad you enjoy French carols. Merry Christmas to you too!

  11. Penny Klein says:

    Ma Chere Catherine,
    thank you for the beautiful music. I am not Christian or a French Christian so I trust you as to what is true to the original. I had not realised that the English and the French have different carols. is this true all over the continent? I don’t think America has exported any.

    Bonne Annee
    Penny

  12. Merry Christmas, Catherine! Your blog and your book have certainly been among the bright spots of 2008! May 2009 be full of good things, too!

  13. Catherine Delors says:

    Penny – Welcome to the world of French carols! I am delighted you enjoyed this beautiful music. Are Christmas carols different all over Europe. Most of them, yes, I would think so. Happy holidays to you!

    Elena –  The same here. I enjoyed Tea at Trianon, and most of all our friendship. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  14. Marie-Helene says:

    Bonjour Catherine,
    J’espere que allez bien, ainsi que William.
    Je voudrais vous demander si vous pourriez enlever le commantaire de votre blog sur le divin enfant music composition.
    < It may be possible to suggest that the Chorales be sung in moderate tempo, not too fast, but surely not too slowly – about A QUARTER NOTE = 72 to 80, in keeping with the sentiment of the text. They should be rendered in fairly strict tempo, without accentuations. At the pauses (.), one or two regular beats may be added to the value of the given notes.>>

    merci
    MH

  15. And likewise to you, Mme Delors, Joyeux Noël!

  16. Catherine Delors says:

    Joyeux Noël, et bonne annee 2010!

  17. Stewart Walduck says:

    I first saw the Sainte Chapelle at age 15. The next time was when I was sixty. I couldn’t help thinking ‘Why did I waste those years?’ The same with this carol

  18. Merci. Aux États-Unis cette chanson est toujours chanté trop vite.

  19. Kate Warren says:

    I like the children’s choir best. Beautiful song in any arrangement.

  20. lewis matheney says:

    I never sang this carol in either English or French and was only introduced to it recently via Annie Lennox’s “A Christmas Cornucopia” album. However, the melody seems very familiar which leads me to believe it was added to an altogether different set of lyrics, which was very common prior to modern copyright laws. Does anybody know of a different song that includes this melody? Something makes me think it was used in some form of a U.S. patriotic song, but I honestly can’t recall. Thanks!

  21. Penny says:

    This time I want to have the house to go with the one I have from your George Sand set.
    by the way this is my first post since the blizzard hit us Sunday. I lost all phone and internet service. I am an addict of the internet. but it was lonely not being able to call anyone.

  22. You have my sympathy, Penny. Welcome back!

  23. Pat Baumgardner says:

    The first time I heard this song was at Midnight Mass in Thomery when I was 16. Thank you so much…..

  24. Bill says:

    In the version by Edith Piaf, can anyone tell me what she sings after “Depuis plus de quatre mille ans, Nous …?

    All of the lyrics that I’ve seen have the next words as “le promettaient.” I can hear that clearly in most recordings, but it sounds quite different to me when Piaf sings it. Is it really something different?

    Thanks,
    Bill