• Thea Musgrave
  • For the Time Being: Advent (1986)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Singers

  • SATB
  • Narrator
  • 23 min

Programme Note


W. H. Auden published his long poem ‘For the Time Being’ in 1945. It is headed by a dedication to the poet’s mother who had died in 1941, and this quotation from Romans VI: ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.’ The poem is subtitled ‘A Christmas Oratorio’, and was written with the intention (never fulfilled) that it should be set to music by Auden’s regular collaborator at the time, Benjamin Britten.

This work is a setting of the whole of the first section of the poem, ‘Advent’, in a continuous 25-minute span. It respects the division into separate numbers implied by the layout of the poem, and includes a Narrator speaking the text of Part II, accompanied by the chorus singing fragments from the previous section, and echoing the Narrator’s ironic prayer.

The work was commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Singers, and fist performed by them at St John’s Smith Square in London on April 27th 1987, conducted by John Poole.