Adam Lay Ybounden

Conductor Notes:

SSA a cappella with soli. For this beautiful Christmas piece with text from the 15th century, Larkin composes a plainchant melody in C# minor and then uses the melody as his main musical motif. Starting in unison chant, the verses move from one to two to three line, organum-like versions of the original chant. This small piece is much like a miniature jewel in its completeness of construction. There are two spots for short solos that highlight the text rather than diminish the brilliance of the composition. Although the piece is very much a product of the 20th century, the text and the plainchant motif give an overall effect of an early music treasure, recently discovered. The conducting challenges are to keep it flowing forward as one would expect in singing plainchant and yet give the sense of tranquility and ease through vocal lines which reflect a more 20th century compositional style. (Note by Diane Loomer)

Composer / Arranger Notes:

Adam Lay Ybounden is a setting of an anonymous fifteenth century poem that speaks to the subject of original sin and subsequent redemption in the person of Jesus Christ. The premise of the poem is, that if Adam had not been tempted by Eve directly, and the serpent indirectly, there would have been no precedent for sin as we understand it, and consequently, no need for redemption. As such, the birth of Christ would not have been necessary as far as the Christian understanding of things is concerned. The sin of Adam constrained the development of humanity’s relationship with God for many centuries until God himself became flesh and dwelt among us. Mary’s birthing of Jesus, as alluded to in the poem itself, allowed human beings to literally touch the face of God through his Son.

I wrote the piece in the fall of 1990 when I was the organist at St. John’s Church in Victoria , BC. There I was fortunate to work with a very gifted group of young people for whom I wrote this piece. The musical style is intended to sound somewhat monastic in one sense, but supple and romantic in another. Any group that can achieve a beautiful blend in unison singing will do justice to this work. Although there is a lamentoso quality to the piece, and with that a portrayal of our failings as a species, there is also sufficient major-key tonality to portray the hope that comes with a strong spiritual relationship with God. When it was published in 1996, I dedicated it to my Godson, Isaac Barss, who at the time was celebrating his first birthday.


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





(Words 15th Century)
1.Adam Lay ybounden bounden in a bond.
Four thousand winter thought he not too long.

2. And all was for an apple, and apple that he took.
As clekes finden written in their book.

3. Ne, ne, had the apple taken been.
Ne had never our ladie abeen heav’n queen.

4. Blessed be the time that apple taken was
therefore we moun singen Deo gracias.