Ceremony of Carols, A

  • Composer: Benjamin Britten 
  • Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
  • Cat No: 16832
  • Canadian Composition: No
  • Duration: 23:50
  • Sample Track:

Program Notes:

In 1942, prior to boarding a ship in Nova Scotia’s Halifax harbour to return home from a visit to America, England’s most celebrated composer visited a bookstore. He picked up a copy of The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, by Gerald Bullett and, during the ensuing ocean voyage, composed one of his most famous and enduring works, A Ceremony of Carols, scored for 3-part women’s choir and harp. The twelve short movements of this masterpiece, using English poems from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, evoke the mystery and humility of Christ’s birth.

Conductor Notes:

This is simply a “must-do” work for women’s choir and concert harp. Scored for SSA, the 11 short movements (see below) provide ample opportunity for sensitive singing, robust singing, and chant (opening and closing movements). The most famous movement is #6 “This Little Babe”, but the whole thing is something all treble choirs should experience. The trickiest thing will be the language, as the texts are all in an old english. In spite of the fact that our recording of this uses ancient pronunciaton (gleaned from another recording!), I recommend you carefully consider where you can simplify the language to bring it up to more modern English. The benefit will be easier learning, and better comprehension of the texts by the audience. Soloists can take on “That YongĂ« Child”, “Balulalow” (opening and closing), “In Freezing Winter Night” (closing lines), and “Spring Carol”.
List of movements: Procession (1:43), Wolcum Yole! (1:22), There is no rose (2:49), That Yongë Child (1:35), Balulalow (1:18), As Dew in Aprille (0:55), This Little Babe (1:18), Interlude (4:06), In Freezing Winter Night (3:54), Spring Carol (1:04), Deo Gracias (1:12), Recession (2:02)

References:

This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.

Recordings

Collections:

Concerts:

Text:

various, from the 14th to the 16th Centuries in England.