The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A, a, a, a
Nunc gaudet Maria

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional, Fifteenth Century

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 16

A, a, a, a
Nunc gaudet Maria

1. Mary is a lady bright,
She hath a Son of mickle might,
Over all this world she is light,
Bona natalicia.

2. Mary is so fair of face,
And her Son is full of grace,
In heaven (may) He make us a place,
Cum sua potencia.

3. Mary is so fair and bright,1
And her Son so full of might, 1
Over all this world He is light, 1
Bona voluntaria.

4. Mary is both good and kind,
Ever on us she hath mind,
That the fiend shall us not bind2
Cum sua malicia.

5. Mary is queen of every thing,
And her Son a lovely king;
God grant us all (a) good ending;
Regnat Dei gracia.

Notes:

1. Text: swote -- boot -- boot  Return

2. Text: shend = hurt. Return

Note:

Copies of this carol on this site include:

Like Alfred Burt before her, from 1976 to 2001, the late cellist and composer Lesley Hopwood Meyer of Rose Valley, PA, created a series of 26 Christmas cards based on Christmas carols, the texts for many drawn from Edith Rickert's 1910 collection Ancient English Christmas Carols (London: Chatto & Windus) – a volume that she borrowed in her annual pilgrimage to the Free Library of Philadelphia. Many of those carols were performed for friends who attended the annual Christmas parties hosted by Lesley and her husband, Richard.

Verses were drawn verbatim from poems by Jonson, Herrick, Tennyson and others, including traditional sources from as early as 1360; but by the fourth year in the series, Mrs. Meyer's songs had also become slyly autobiographical, as she began to use the centuries-old texts to record the varying fortunes of her own life. She gave double meaning to the words of Robert Herrick: "..where is the babe but lately sprung" from "The Star Song" (1981) on the arrival of her first child. After losing her daughter at 16 months, she selected a 15th Century verse to announce the arrival of her second child, a son: "Now All is Well That Ever Was Woe" (1983). Later on, the tune for "A, A, A, A, Nunc Gaudet Maria" was written during her son's early childhood as variations on "Mary Had A Little Lamb.

In 2007, a private CD was issued containing all 26 of Lesley's carols recorded by St. Luke's Chamber Singers, Jonathan Bowen, Organist and Choirmaster, at The Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany, Philadelphia. The songs were recorded during several sessions from between Nov. 14, 2001 and Nov. 15. 2007. The liner notes included this comment about the words:

Lesley was drawn into this project because the 13th Century sentiment “Kick and beat the grumblers out” appealed to her. Whether “The prunes so lovely” (15th C), “Squadrons of spirits” (16th C), or the autobiographical “A babe is born all of a may, in the salvation of us...”, there was always a bite of charmed language that set the music in motion. In some cases, the preservation of these old texts in Lesley's settings may be their salvation.

In recent years, American composer Robert A. M. Ross had the opportunity to see those Christmas carol cards, and has begun to create arrangements for many of them, including Nunc Gaudet Maria (“Now Mary Rejoices,” first line is “Mary Is A Lady Bright”) and The Time Draws Near. Both of those arrangements were performed by the Lady Chapel Singers, and are included on their second CD, “Magdalene and the Other Mary, Songs of Holy Women.” That CD is available from Church Publishing and also from Amazon.com. Also, Mr. Ross' arrangement to Nunc Gaudet Maria has been published by Oxford University Press.

Mr. Ross's arrangements of three of Lesley Hopwood Meyer's carols were first performed by the Philadelphia group “Voces Novae et Antiquae” during their January 2004 concert From Our Home to Yours. An additional three of Lesley's carols were performed during their 2006 concert A Twelfth Night Celebration: The Shaw-Parker Legacy.

Mr. Ross is the process of creating arrangements for several other of Lesley's Christmas carol cards, and all 13 of those arrangements will be premiered at a pair of concerts Dec. 6 & 13, 2009 in Rose Valley, PA. Some of the drawings from the cards will be used for the concert program – drawings which often support the personal references and double meanings of the texts. It is hoped that a professionally-recorded CD of those programs will become available.

Some of the Christmas card carols written by Leslie Hopwood Meyer and arranged by Robert A. M. Ross include:

The verses to Fezziwig’s Ball were adapted from the text of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Dickens begins that narrative with: “In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile....”

Three other songs currently being arranged by Mr. Ross are Proface, Robert Herrick's The Star Song and Sun of Righteousness ("All this night shrill Chanticleer") from A Handfull of Celestiall Flowers, “manuscrib'd” by Ralph Crane, 1632. Mr. Ross reported that he is creating arrangements for two more songs (TBA).

Alice Meyer Wallace has created a web page dedicated to the music of Lesley Hopwood Meyer titled “Six Short Works for Piano and Strings.” This was a recording offered to colleagues and friends to commemorate an "Evening Dedicated to Lesley Hopwood Meyer" presented by the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia On September 17, 2004 at the Main Auditorium, Drexel University, Philadelphia.

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