Wexford Carol (movement 3 from "Carol Trilogy")

Program Notes:

The haunting melody and text of this ancient carol have their roots in England and Ireland. Canadian composer Laura Hawley’s arrangement is imbued with a sense of wonder. The ending looks ahead to the fulfillment of Christ’s coming to earth that Christmas night, which was indeed to “end all strife.”

Conductor Notes:

SSAA (divisi in A2 only on a few chords) and piano

This is the third movement of Carol Trilogy written by Laura Hawley and commissioned by Elektra Women’s Choir in 2017 as part of Elektra’s Celebrating Women Composers project.

Suitable for an advanced children’s choir that is comfortable in 4 parts (alto 2 low occasionally), advanced high school choir, and adults.

This arrangement reflects the gravitas of the carol’s melody and text beautifully. The alto 1 section has the melody throughout verse 1, which is a welcome change! Good word stress is naturally achieved, delivering the piece’s message clearly. The double descant in the final verse and the fragmentation that happens in the final phrases are poised and successful.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

A pensive and tender phrase from the piano draws the listener into this exquisite setting of The Wexford Carol, ushering in a first verse that, rather than placing the melody in the foreground, enwraps the carol in a cocoon of expressive glowing harmonies and expands the melody over a metrical augmentation that stretches the carol’s original melody out longer than the original note values. After this warm musical meditation, verse two revels in the beauty of the carol’s melody in a unison delivery in the original triple metre. Verse three blossoms into fullness with a double-descant and with the piano as an equal voice with its own independent phrase lengths and tolling bells. The ending of the Wexford Carol brings the Carol Trilogy to a close with thoughts ahead to the fulfillment of Christ’s coming to earth that Christmas night, which was indeed to “end all strife.”

References:

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

Recordings

Collections:

12th-century English and Irish

  1. Good people all, this Christmastime,
    Consider well and bear in mind
    What our good God for us has done,
    In sending his beloved Son.
    With Mary holy we should pray
    To God with love this Christmas Day;
    In Bethlehem upon that morn
    There was a blessed Messiah born.
  1. Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
    Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
    To whom God’s angels did appear,
    Which put the shepherds in great fear.
    ‘Prepare and go’, the angels said,
    ‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
    For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
    A princely babe, sweet Jesus born,’
  1. With thankful heart and joyful mind,
    The shepherds went the babe to find,
    And as God’s angel had foretold,
    They did our Saviour Christ behold.
    Within a manger he was laid,
    And by his side the virgin maid,
    Attending on the Lord of life,
    Who came on earth to end all strife.

English and Irish traditional
Source: “The Oxford Book of Carols” Ed. Dearmer, Vaughan Williams, Shaw