As Joseph was a-walking
Carol for SATB a cappellaforces: SATB Choir
published by: Oxford University Press
This carol was composed in March 2009 and bears a dedication to Jeremy Backhouse and the Vasari Singers, with whom I have enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship over recent years. The folk ballad style of the anonymous, traditional text lent itself well to a musical setting that preserved the original strophic arrangement, and this in turn encouraged the use of textural variation in successive verses to offset repetition of the same musical material. One ‘verse’ of music actually spans two verses of text, and therefore the first verse of the poem is here repeated before the fifth and last of the original, an arrangement which permits three complete musical presentations. In the second of these, the melody is sung by the tenors against a flowing, wordlessly hushed background. In the third, the melody deviates slightly, presenting its central material slightly higher in pitch to create a restrained climax before a slower, more melancholic peroration.
If you are looking for a challenging carol for your choir during the Christmas Season, this is the one. Sung a cappella, each vocal line has independent melodic shape; dissonance and chromaticism are deftly employed to exquisitely expressive ends. The second verse, where the tenors take the melody, is almost dreamlike, with the rest of the choir embellishing the harmonies with angelic and mysterious “ahs”. The piece is richly crafted with modal harmonies and suspensions. I highly recommend this piece for those parishes or cathedrals with especially talented singers. It requires very flowing legato phrasing with perfect intonation-without accompaniment.
Lee Gwozdz [Director of Music, Corpus Christi Cathedral, Texas], Pastoral Music, Washington DC, Volume 37, issue 2, January 2013.