A Babe is born all of a May
Nativity carol setting for SATB choir with S/T divisionsforces: SATB Choir
duration: Ca 4'45"
published by: Peters Edition
The score of this work is available both individually and as the first item in On Christmas Night, an Edition Peters anthology of 32 carols and anthems:
EP 72694. ISMN 979-0-57701-037-3
Dating from 2012, this a cappella carol was written in the middle of summer, when the creation of Christmas music can avoid being merely a response to saturation. It goes further than some of my choral pieces in seeking plausible echoes of the actual techniques of mediaeval choral writing, mostly avoiding parallelism for the first four verses. These present a strophic melody and pass it down through the SATB parts from top to bottom, with a verse each. The stanzas are in effect variations too, since the imitative texture beneath, around or on top of the melody intensifies to some degree as the music goes on. Once the first four verses have been heard, the fifth and final stanza has to find an alternative strategy, which it does by regressing into an earlier kind of would-be mediaevalry: consecutive fifths suddenly proliferate and offer passing hints of organum, the pre-polyphonic technique whereby for the first time the ‘fundamental’ notes of plainchant were doubled and shadowed by overtones a fifth and an octave higher, to create a primitive kind of parallel harmony. This initially climactic verse also divides the parts in order to create a richer, more homophonic texture, before subsiding again and allowing the final stages of the piece to recall the opening verse, much as if no intervening outburst had occurred. In general, the music aims to offer singers something melodious in all parts, and to combine relatively diatonic lines with demands for a certain agility and rhythmic alertness.
© Francis Pott, January 2015.