A Ceremony of Carols

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A Ceremony of Carols
by Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten, London Records 1968 publicity photo for Wikipedia crop.jpg
The composer, 1968
Catalogue Op. 28
Genre cantata
Occasion Christmas
Text excerpts from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, ed. Gerald Bullett
Language Middle English, Latin
Composed 1942 (1942)
Movements 11
Scoring three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp

A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28, is a choral piece by Benjamin Britten, scored for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp. Written for Christmas, it consists of eleven movements, with text from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, edited by Gerald Bullett; it is in Middle English. The piece was written in 1942 while Britten was at sea, going from the United States to England.

The piece was written at the same time as Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia and is stylistically very similar. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, it was later unified into one piece with the framing processional and recessional chant in unison based on the Gregorian antiphon "Hodie Christus natus est", heard at the beginning and the end. A harp solo based on the chant, along with a few other motifs from "Wolcum Yole", also serves to unify the composition. In addition the movements "This Little Babe" and "Deo Gracias" have the choir reflecting harp-like effects by employing a canon at the first in stretto.

Movements[edit]

1. "Procession" ("Hodie Christus natus est", Gregorian antiphon to the Magnificat at Second Vespers of Christmas)
2. "Wolcum Yole!"
3. "There is no Rose" (Trinity College MS 0.3.58, early 15c)
4a. "That yonge child"
4b. "Balulalow" (The brothers Wedderburn, fl. 1548)
5. "As dew in Aprille" (Sloane 2593, first quarter 15c)
6. "This little Babe" (from Robert Southwell's "Newe Heaven, Newe Warre", 1595)
7. "Interlude" (harp solo)
8. "In Freezing Winter Night" (Southwell)
9. "Spring Carol" (16c., also set by William Cornysh)
10. "Deo Gracias" (Sloane 2593)
11. "Recession" ("Hodie")

References[edit]