The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Ceremony Of Carols

Notes concerning A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28
Arranged by Benjamin Britten

Source: Program to An English Christmas Carol
Director's Note by Debby Lyttle
For a performance at Tigard United Methodist Church, Tigard, Oregon, December 9, 2000.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

In 1939, Britten left England because he didn't really feel at home there. He spent three years in the States and learned that he really belonged back in England. During a stop in Nova Scotia on the return trip in May of 1942 he purchased a copy of “The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems” which seems to have sparked the idea for a carol sequence. He was also carrying with him two harp manuals since he had been commissioned to write a harp concerto. The two came together in his much loved “A Ceremony of Carols.” The first performance by the Fleet Street Choir was different from the final version that we'll hear tonight which took another year to complete for publication.

The Ceremony of Carols arrangement contains the following carols:

  1. Processional Hodie Christus Natus Est

  2. Wolcum Yule (Welcome Yule and Welcome Yule - Rickert)

  3. There Is No Rose (There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue)

  4. That Younge Childe

  5. Balulalow (I Come From Heuin To Tell - Wedderburn, 1567)

  6. As Dew In Apille (I Sing Of A Maiden)

  7. This Little Babe (Robert Southwell)

  8. Interlude (Harp)

  9. In Freezing Winter Night (Behold A Simple Tender Babe, Robert Southwell)

  10. Spring Carol (William Cornish)

  11. Adam Lay I-Bounden (Adam lay ibounden)

  12. Recessional, "Hodie Christmas.

The sheet music is available from Boosey & Hawkes. For more information, see the Wikipedia article, A Ceremony of Carols, and the review by Len Mullenger, A Ceremony of Carols. There are numerous performances at YouTube, and the work has been recorded by numerous excellent choirs.

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