Commissioned by Louis Halsey for his Christmas Concert in December 1965
Full score for hire only
Carol: This enders night
Song: The Mother of God
Carol: Gaude Maria
Melodrama: The Second Coming
Jonathan Harvey is a composer who sees every new work as an exploration of territory so that his style has changed very considerably during his career. What has not changed is his expertise in the handling of voices even when they are required to execute unusual devices.
Cantata I was commissioned for the 1965 Christmas Concert of Louis Halsey one of many interesting works which came into being as a result of the enterprise shown by the Elizabethan Singers and the subsequent Louis Halsey Choir. The music sets a number of familiar Christmas texts beginning with unaccompanied female voices who sing the verse of the first carol and are then joined by the men for the Burden, using Sprechstimme techniques as well as conventional pitching. This pattern of alternation is followed until verse 3 after which the verses proceed with increasing complexity not stopping for a Burden until after Verse 5.
The second movement begins with a declamatory choral statement and then continues with a soprano solo passage using the wide leaping intervals often to be found in modern vocal music. Gaude Maria is a six verse strophic carol with interpolated Cadenzas for solo string instruments - a most dramatic and imaginative idea.
The final Melodrama begins with a declamatory semipitched passage for the Baritone soloist leading into a fugal passage for 8 part choir prophesying the Second Coming with a great intensity and a further extended solo before the music subsides to a quiet end, the voices fading into a gently rocking ostinato for the high strings.
1. This enders night
A lovely lady sat and sange
And to her son thus gave she say:
My son, my lord, my dere darling,
Why ly'st thou thus in hay?
But neverthelesse I will not cease
To sing by, by, lulley
This enders night I saw a sight
A star as bright as any day
And ever among a mayden sung
Lulley, lulley, lulley
Then spake the child that was so young
And thus methought he said
I am known as hevyn kyng
In cribbe though I now be layd
Angels bright to me shall light
And of that sight ye may be light
And sing lulley, lulley
Jesu my son hevyn king
Why ly'st thou thus in stall
And why hast thou no ryche beddynge
In sum ryche kings hall?
Methink by right
The lord of might
Should lye in ryche array
But neverthelesse I will not cease to sing
Lulley she said and sung also
Myn own dere son why art thou wo?
Have I not do as I should do?
Thy grievance, tell me what it is!
Nay, dere moder, for thee weep I nought
Bur for the woe that shall be wrought
To me, as I mankind have brought
Was never sorrow like it I wis
Peace dere son, tell me not soo,
Thou art my child I have no moo
Shouls I myn own son sloo?
Alas my dere son! What meaneth this
Mary, moder I pray thee take thee up on loft,
And in thyn arem thou keppe me warm
And dame me now full oft
And if I wepe and will not slepe
Then syng by, by, lulley
Jesu, my son, hevyn kyng
If it be thy will
Grant myn asking
Whatsoever they be that can and will be
Merry on this day
To this them brynge,
And I shall syng: Lulley, lulley.
2. The Mother of God
The threefold terror of love
a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear
Wings beating about the room
The terror of all terrors that I have
The heavens in my womb
Had I not found content among the shows
Ev'ry common woman knows
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart bleed stop
or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?
3. Carol: Gaude Maria
Gaude Maria Cristis moder
Mary mild, of thee I mene;
Thou bare my lord thou bare my broder;
Thou bare a lovely child and clene.
Thous stodest full still without blyss,
Whene in thy ere that erand was done so;
Thou gracious God the lyght withyn.
Gaude Maria yglent with grace!
When Jesus, thi son on thee was bore,
Full nygh thy brest thou gan him brace;
He sowked, he sighed, he wept full sore.
Thou fedest the flowr that never shall fade
With maydent mylke and song therto:
Lulley my sweet I have thee, babe
Cumpuderis lilio Gaude Maria! Thy mirth was away,
When Cryst on cross thy son gan die
Full dolfully on God Fryday
That many a moders son yt sye
Hys blood us brought from care and strife,
Hiw wat'ry wounds us wisshe from wo
The third day from deth to lyf
Gaude Maria thou byrde so bryghte
Bryghter than blossum that blowith on hill!
Joyfull thou were to see that sight
When the apostles so sweet of will
Thy all and sum did shriek full shrill,
Whan the fayrest of shape went you fro,
From erth to hevyn he styed full still,
Motu que fertu proprio
© Jonathan Harvey