Carol singing words

Away in a manger (100 CFCs p. 16, Carols for Choirs 1 p.2)

Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side
Until morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And fit us for Heaven
To live with Thee there

Ding dong (100 CFCs p.82, Carols for Choirs 1 p.28)

Ding dong! merrily on high in heaven the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky is riven with angels singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! x2

E’en so here below, below, let steeple bells be swungen,
And io, io, io by priest and people sungen.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! x2

Pray you dutifully prime your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime your evetime song, ye singers.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! x2

God rest you merry gentlemen (100 CFCs p.83, Carols for Choirs 1 p.29)

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray:

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our heavenly Father
A blessed angel came,
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name:

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway,
This blessed Babe to find:

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this Infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling,
Unto the Lord did pray:

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace; 
This holy tide of Christmas
All others doth deface

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy

Good king Wenceslas (Carols for Choirs 1, page 34)

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay ’round about
Deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel;
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league, hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither”

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how
I can go no longer”

“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

In the bleak midwinter (Holst) (100 CFCs p.173)

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

It came upon the midnight clear (100 CFCs p.194, Carols for Choirs 1 p.59)

It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold:
‘Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, From heaven’s all-gracious King.’
The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come, With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on, By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world give back the song Which now the angels sing.

Joy to the world (100 CFCs p.202, but not the same introductions)

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of his love.

Bach’s St Matthew Passion

I first had the pleasure (or honour?) of conducting Bach’s larger Passion work back in 2017, and will revisit it, this time with Wellington Choral Society and the Wellington Sinfonia, on 30th March 2019.

About the performance

Saturday 30th March 2019 at 7pm
St John’s Church, Wellington​

Musical Director: Laurence Blyth
Evangelist: Nicholas Hawker (tenor)
Jesus: Tim Mirfin (bass)
Soloists: Emily Griffiths (soprano), Sebastian Field (countertenor)
Michael Gormley (tenor), Matthew Cann (bass), David McKee (bass)

Wellington Choral Society: an unauditioned choir in Somerset

The Society’s roots are in the nineteenth century with the Wellington Harmonic Society, which was established in 1871 by William Manley and continued until the 1930s. After a short break in activities it was reformed in 1940 as the Wellington Choral Society.

It is a friendly and welcoming choir incorporating a wide range of age and abilities. Membership is open to everyone with an interest in choral singing. 

Listen to Bach’s St Matthew Passion

Eternal Light and more: Exmouth Choral Society’s 2019 programme

Exmouth Choral Society is about to kick-off its new singing term with a programme of 20th century choral works.

The group is based in Exmouth – a seaside town on the south Devon coast – and draws enthusiastic singers from the town itself, along the Jurassic Coast, from both sides of the River Exe estuary, and around East Devon.

A change of direction

Our February programme was a jolly, baroque affair. Vivaldi’s setting of Dixit Dominus (RV 595) and Purcell’s ode ‘Come ye sons of art’ were both framed by lively baroque masterpieces from J.S.Bach, namely his Cantata 191 ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ and the setting of the Magnificat.

The new term brings some considerable choral contrast!

[if you want to skip the writing, then head to the bottom of this page for a Spotify playlist of the works we’re learning]

Choral settings of beautiful poetry

‘Wonderful words’ is the theme which binds together this session’s music. Firstly, Benjamin Britten’s cantata ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’, which sets text from a substantial poem of the same name by the 18th century poet Christopher Smart.

Howard Goodall was commissioned by London Music to write a work for that group’s 20th anniversary. Conceived as both a choral-orchestral-dance and choral-orchestral work (we will be performing it as the latter!) ‘Eternal Light: A Requiem’ brings together words of the Latin Mass and poetry by, amongst others, Francis Quarles, Ann Thorp and Phineas Fletcher.

Eric Whitacre has taken the choral world by storm, known primarily for the lush harmonies of his a cappella works. ‘The Seal Lullaby’ is a short but beautiful piece that sets words by Rudyard Kipling. Sharks and seals might not be the most obvious visitors to this part of the world, but it gives the choir a chance to sing some of Whitacre’s music [You can read about the piece’s story here.]

Finally, Vaughan Williams’ ‘Five Mystical Songs’ – four poems by George Herbert (the first, ‘Easter’, is divided in two) for baritone, choir and orchestra.

New for Christmas – Still, Still, Still

Each year I work with the wonderful Somerset Voices choir (a kind of scratch choral society) to plan and conduct the music for the Sing for Somerset carol service in Wells Cathedral. The service, which this year takes place on Saturday 15th December, benefits the work of the Somerset Community Foundation (you read all about their work across the county over on their website) and lots of people see it as the start of Christmas. There’s always a mixture of choral music for choir and congregation, as well as seasonal readings and prayers. This year I’m introducing a carol that will be new to most of the choir – Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of Still, still, still. We’re lucky to work in partnership with the Mid Somerset Orchestra , so the video below will give you an idea of what to expect on the night – strings and all! Find out more about joining the choir or just sit back and listen to the music, and maybe put the date in your diary for this year’s service (Saturday 15th December 2018, 7pm, Wells Cathedral).