Header Image (book)

aowheader.3.2.gif

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Benjamin Britten - A Ceremony of Carols

(For politics, please scroll down)



From the YouTube link:
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.

To my ears, this is a marvellous performance under choirmaster and conductor George Guest at St. John's College, Cambridge, recorded in 1965. Marisa Robles' harp playing here is a delight.

Details of images (interspersed with my own photographs of various places in the Derbyshire Peak District National Park, England):

1. "The Shrine of St. Ursula" - a carved and gilded wooden reliquary containing oil on panel inserts (87x33x91 cm) by Hans Memling (c. 1433 - 1494). Dating to c.1489

2. (at 7:20) "Angel Musicians" - oil on panel by Hans Memling (c.1433 - 1494). Dating to c.1480s

3. (at 9:40) Choir stall carvings by Advent Huntstone at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Tideswell, Derbyshire, England.

4. (at 12:11) Images (not by me) from the enthronement in March 2013 at Canterbury Cathedral of Justin Welby, as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

5. (at 14:27) at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

6. (at 19:47) "Adam and Eve" (1511) fresco ceiling panel in the Vatican State Apartments - attributed to Raphael (or Raffaello Sanzio) (1483 - 1520)

7. (at 20:59) as 1. above.

Movements:

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")

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful performance. I was looking for "Carol of the Bells" yesterday and came upon this work. Small world!

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is what-I-can-ony-describe-as an Astringent Austerity about this work which echoes the mood and tone of earlier liturgical music from the Middle Ages –– before tonality slowly emerged and finally took over in the Baroque Era.

    I've loved this particular piece of Britten's work since the first time I heard it –– probably more than sixty years ago.

    My first piano teacher, a Juilliard graduate, was also the organist and choirmaster at our church, and a profoundly gifted choral conductor as well. He taught at a prestigious private academy for girls in the New York Metropolitan Area where he produced splendid concerts of the best in choral music literature twice a year and on ceremonial occasions. A wonderful source of inspiration for a musical child!

    Though Britten undoubtedly had boy trebles in mind when he composed this work, it sounded very well indeed when his small, handpicked chorus of High School girls performed it. Unfortunately no proficient harpist was available, so it was accompanied on the Steinway –– beautifully I might add ––, but the unique sound of the harp is still far superior to the piano in this very special work.

    Though the contents were given in AOW's post, I thought it couldn't hurt to repeat it here, because so few bother to read the articles we present.

    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")

    The use of Middle English texts and Gregorian chant heightens the feeling of echoes from ancient times, but the work is also decidedly "modern," so Britten came full circle and brilliantly united the distant past with the twentieth century.

    Thank you for making this available, AOW. I hadn't heard it in many years.. This by the way is an excellent performance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FT,
      I was first introduced to Benjamin Britten's music at a concert I attended a few years ago at the Washington National Cathedral. For me, it was love at first listen! Especially in the setting of the cathedral.

      Delete
  3. Beautiful piece, AOW. Music as music should be!

    ReplyDelete

We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective