Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Today's Christmas Carol, 6 December 2005

I'm going to try to post a favorite, but somewhat obscure, Christmas carol every day between now and Christmas. I'll begin with something from English choral director and composer John Rutter, photo at left, who is well-known to any lover of choral music, especially sacred music. Rutter has been described as "the musical equivalent of Dickens."

I'm a huge Rutter fan. In 1981 Rutter formed his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, as a professional chamber choir primarily dedicated to recording. I think we have every Christmas album ever produced by the Cambridge singers. Their work is available from Collegium Records, a label formed just for them. Here's the lyric to one of their best and most famous recordings:

What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his flowers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
This is a sublime carol as performed by the Cambridge Singers. The sheet music is here, and the recording is available here (along with many other Rutter works).

Try a little John Rutter. Your Christmases will be greatly enriched.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you SO MUCH for the lyrics to this song. it was exactly what I was looking for, and they are supremely inspiring!


Posted by Amy

Monday, December 19, 2005 4:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was watching the PBS Christmas special from Belmont College. They performed John Rutter's "What Sweeter Music" and I wanted a chance to review the lyrics, since I was so struck by them. Thanks for posting them - I had trouble finding them until they showed up on your blog.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. 

Posted by Mark Zollinhofer

Thursday, December 22, 2005 6:33:00 PM  

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