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The Lamb is a choral work by British composer John Tavener composed in 1982. It is a setting to music of the William Blake poem The Lamb from Blake's collection of poems Songs of Innocence. It is one of Tavener's best known works.
The Lamb was performed shortly after its composition at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in Kings College Chapel, Cambridge on Christmas Eve 1982.
Fantasia on Christmas Carols is a 1912 work for baritone, chorus, and orchestra by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was first performed on September 12, 1912 at the Three Choirs Festival at Hereford Cathedral; it was conducted by the composer with the baritone Campbell McInnes. The single-movement work of roughly twelve minutes consists of the English folk carols "The truth sent from above", "Come all you worthy gentlemen" and "On Christmas night all Christians sing" (i.e. the Sussex Carol), all folk songs collected in southern England by Vaughan Williams and his friend Cecil Sharp a few years earlier. These are interposed with brief orchestral quotations from other carols, such as The First Nowell.
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. The text is principally in Middle English, with some Latin and Early Modern English. The piece was written in 1942 while Britten was at sea, travelling from the United States to England. It 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.
1. "Procession" ("Hodie Christus natus est", Gregorian antiphon to the Magnificat at Second Vespers of Christmas)
This movement is sung exclusively by the sopranos and is patterned on a traditional processional in Christian church service. It has no time signature and can be sung in a variety of tempos in order to make the movement more flexible. The last several measures can be repeated to allow the whole ensemble to take their places.
2. "Wolcum Yole!"
An upbeat and festive piece intended to welcome the audience as guests coming to celebrate the holiday. The text of this piece is written in Middle English. At one point, all the parts come in at separate times to introduce each guest who has arrived for the holidays: the tenors begin by welcoming St. Stephen and St. John, the altos then welcome "the innocents" who are implied to be children, (this refers to the innocent first-born children killed by Herod, one of the feast days of the season), followed by sopranos welcoming Thomas Becket, and finally the basses welcome all the previously named guests.
3. "There is no rose" (Trinity College MS 0.3.58, early 15c)
"There is no Rose" presents a more reverent tone than the previous movement, as the choir admires the beauty of the birth of Jesus Christ. The sopranos and altos sing the melody in a soft, prayerful manner, while the rest of the ensemble occasionally joins them to sing in unison. This is a macaronic piece, meaning the text is in both a vernacular language (English, in this case) and Latin.
4. "That yongë child"
"That yongë child", consists of a soprano solo with harp accompaniment. The reverent tone from the previous piece carries over into this one, except this piece is more recitative.
"Balulalow" includes the rest of the ensemble and acts as a contrast to the first part. It has a different key, rhythm, and an overall more jubilant tone than "That yongë child". "Balulalow" is meant to be a lullaby for baby Jesus Christ and the soprano solo at the beginning of the movement paints an image of The Virgin Mary singing a lullaby to her newborn child.
6. "As Dew in Aprille" (Sloane 2593, first quarter 15c)
"As dew in Aprille" switches the focus from baby Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary. This is reflected in this gentle, soothing piece, which progressively grows softer until the very end. Throughout this movement, the different voice parts overlap each other to create an echoing effect. The volume of the choir abruptly shifts at the end from pianissississimo (very, very, very softly) to forte (loudly).
7. "This Little Babe" (from Robert Southwell's "Newe Heaven, Newe Warre", 1595)
"This little Babe" contrasts with every other piece up to this point, taking a much darker approach and often using imagery of hell. This piece depicts a battle between the baby Jesus Christ and Satan (good and evil), which is conveyed in its swift tempo, polyrhythms, overlapping segments between the voices, and the fact that the song grows progressively louder over the duration of the movement. The song reaches its climax with an intense key change and conflicting rhythm from the rest of the piece.
8. "Interlude" (harp solo)
This movement is performed halfway through the performance. The harp solo creates a sense of angelic bliss with its slow tempo, shifting rhythm, and progressively soft nature.
This movement calls out to the circumstances of the birth of Christ and employs the choir to sing in a round to create an echoing effect. The choir and harp progress through the movement at contrasting paces and, over the duration of the piece, gradually synchronise until they both move at the same pace just before the ending when the music fades out. This is meant to symbolise the discord on earth before and during the birth of Christ and the hope of the future and the harmony he brings.
"Spring Carol" is a duet between two sopranos that depicts the signs of spring. It originates from a carol set by William Cornysh. This movement ends with a call to thank God, which transitions appropriately to the next movement.
"Deo gracias" (Thanks be to God) is based on a macaronic (a mix of English and Latin) poem from the 15th Century. The original text tells of the events that happened in Chapter 3 of Genesis, the "Fall of Man" as Eve is tricked into eating the fruit of sin. Note the idea of Adam's sin as a 'happy fault,' emphasized by the last stanza - "Blessèd be the time That appil takè was" - introduced by St. Ambrose and St. Augustine and further developed by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. At the end of the piece, a cross can be displayed in the text to signify the crucifixion of Christ as well as the redemption of mankind. Britten has set the choir in such a way that the choir becomes emphatic in its thanks to God. Use of syncopated (emphasis of the off-beat to create a displacement of rhythm) and staccato (short and detached) rhythms emphasise this energetic thankfulness, while only a small section very quietly recounts the plight of humanity.
12. "Recession" ("Hodie Christus natus est")
This movement is a near mirror of the Procession and the ensemble, typically, performs this piece as they exit the stage. Its melody gradually fades as the ensemble retreats outside of the venue