Video: What Child is This by Jeff H. Ulrich – Antique 3D Nativities by Ferdinand Pribyl (1840-1915)

The sacred #Christmasmusic, “What Child is This,” with the recording of my instrumental arrangement and video rendering of antique 3D nativities by Ferdinand Pribyl (1840-1915).

Christmas of 2016, I was inspired by creations that were made over 100 years ago by an artist whose sacred expressions were of a unique tradition to celebrate the birth of Christ. His masterpieces then so moved me to apply music from my creative Christmas past to my rendering of panoramic photos of his 3D nativities.

May this music video inspire you to the true spirit of the season.


In 1997, I scripted and produced a Christmas play for which I instrumentally arranged the version of “What Child is This,” as heard in this video, for the play’s very own nativity scene.

Regarding the 3D nativities illustrated in this video, their explanation below is my summary of the description from the copyright owner’s website:

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Ferdinand Pribyl, a Czech Moravian, painted a series of nativities of immense scale, brilliant color and painstaking detail. Through four generations, Pribyl’s nativities have been passed to family members and close friends.

The Nativity scenes vary in length between 10’ and 15’, and are over 2’ in height. They are 3-dimensional in effect, with multiple cut-outs of people, animals, and landscape scenes inserted into slots on a 12” baseboard. No two scenes are alike and few individual figures are identical.

A typical feature in most of Ferdinand’s panoramas is the depiction of pastoral life on one side, with farmers and shepherds bringing their gifts of farm produce to the central manger, and city life on the other, with townspeople bringing presents of bakery products or manufactured goods.

Nativity art has a long tradition in the Czech lands and throughout Europe. In the middle ages it was used as a way to teach and demonstrate Christianity to the people. In periods when the Catholic Church was undergoing persecution and religious art was banned, the manufacture of such art became a cottage industry in many areas, and people personally commissioned scenes for display in private residences. This anchored the tradition in the local culture, as many people lent their talent to developing the art form.

There’s much more information on copyright owners’ website at All rights to the illustrated photos and nativities are reserved by their respective owners.

For my video here, I used three 2-D photos of the 3D nativities to create two scrolling curves that render over a reflective scene of the Sea of Galilee.


[Verse 1]
What child is this who laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping
This, this is Christ the king
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

[Verse 2]
Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding
The end of fear for all who hear
The silent Word is speaking
This, this is Christ the king
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

[Verse 3]
So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant king to love him;
The king of kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him
This, this is Christ the king
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him praise
The babe, the son of Mary

by William Chatterton Dix, in 1865.

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