Programme: Nowell, Nowell

A snowy tree with the words Nowell, Nowell: Vivamus

Thursday 15 November 2022


Zion hört die Wächter singen (J. S. Bach, 1685–1750)

J. S. Bach’s church cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us) was composed for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and received its premiere on 25 November 1731. It completed Bach’s second annual cycle of choral cantatas and is based on Philipp Nicolai’s hymn of the same name. Zion hört die Wächter singen (Zion hears her watchmen’s voices) is the fourth movement of the cantata and is based on the second verse of Nicolai’s hymn.

Venite, Gaudete! (Adrian Peacock, 1963–)

Venite, Gaudete! starts with a single line singing a continually repeated musical phrase, which gradually expands and intensifies, paving the way for some thrilling double-choir writing.

Audience carol: O come, o come, Emmanuel (15th-century French melody, adapted and arranged by David Willcocks, 1919–2015)

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Gaudete in Domino semper (Rufus Frowde, b. 1978)

Gaudete in Domino semper, an Introit for the third Sunday of Advent, was premiered by Vivamus at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, Marylebone, London on 9 December 2016 conducted by the composer with Richard Hills (organ). It was also recorded from home during the pandemic by members of the choir in late 2021.

The truth from above (traditional English, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872–1958)

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Angelus ad virginem (14th century Irish, arranged David Willcocks, 1919–2015)

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I sing of a Maiden (Matthew Martin, b. 1976)

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Audience carol: It came upon the midnight clear (traditional, adapted by Arthur Sullivan, 1842–1900, descant by David Hill, b. 1957)

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Organ solo

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Jesus Christ the apple tree (Elizabeth Poston, 1905–87)

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I saw three ships (traditional English, arranged by John Rutter, b. 1945)

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Bethlehem Down (Peter Warlock, 1894–1930)

Peter Warlock is the pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine, a British composer and music critic with an interest in occult practices. He is best known as a composer of songs, including tonight’s lullaby-like setting, perhaps a contribution to the composer’s reputation as a miniaturist.

Audience carol: The first Nowell (traditional English, arranged by David Willcocks, 1919–2015)

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The Shepherd’s Carol (Bob Chilcott, b. 1955)

The text is a poem by Clive Sansom (1910–81) that narrates the experience of the shepherds, drawn by starlight to the baby Jesus. The melody of folk-like simplicity is supported by languid and atmospheric harmonies.

Joys seven (traditional English, arranged by Stephen Cleobury, 1948–2019)

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Organ improvisation (Richard Hills, b. 1980)

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Audience carol: Good King Wenceslas (Piae Cantiones, arranged by Bob Chilcott, b. 1955)

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Encore: We three kings (John Henry Hopkins, arranged by Ralph Allwood, b. 1950)

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