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Four French Carols

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Four French Carols

The Four French Carols are in three versions:

  1. brass quintet
  2. full orchestra—3(2+pic).3(2+ehn).2.2-4.3.3.1-timp.2perc-str
  3. the outer movements for string orchestra

The full set is 12′.

I first wrote these for the Westminster Brass, a brass quintet, in 1988, for whom I’ve composed a number of things. These were written to be used as preludes or postludes in church services, and Westminster has played these dozens upon dozens of times at churches and conferences. They recorded the set on their CD Christmas Celebration, and published the sheet music in 1997. I revised them in 1996, because Westminster was getting them ready for publication. Then I orchestrated them in 2002 for the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra in Maryland, Sheldon Bair, Music Director, who commissioned the orchestration. They premiered the orchestral version on 7 Dec 2002. The Concord Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Jamin Hoffman, performed them in 2010. For a 2004 Advent concert at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Abington, Pa., conducted by Joseph Caminiti, I re-orchestrated numbers 1 and 4 for strings alone.

I recall that “Saw ye never” was a tune new to me, and that I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it.

Here are excerpts from the brass quintet originals:

1. A Cry Went Up at Midnight

2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

3. Saw You Never

4. O Come, Divine Messiah

and here are the scores to the full orchestra version, plus an audio excerpt:

1. A Cry Went Up at Midnight View full score

2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella View full score
3. Saw You Never View full score
4. O Come, Divine Messiah View full score

Texts to the carols:

1. A cry went up at midnight

A cry went up at midnight,
one like it was never heard there,
In the country of Judea: Christmas.

2. Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella

Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella
Bring a torch, come swiftly and run
Christ is born, tell the folk of the village,
Jesus is sleeping in His cradle
Ah, ah, beautiful is the Mother;
Ah, ah, beautiful is her Son.

3. Saw ye never in the twilight

Saw ye never in the twilight,
When the sun had left the skies,
Up in heaven the clear stars shining
Thro’ the gloom, like silver eyes?
So of old, the wise men, watching,
Saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given,
And they followed it from far.

4. O come, divine Messiah!

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.
Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

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