BENJAMIN BRITTEN

A CEREMONY OF CAROLS
(Opus 28)

for treble voices and harp accompaniment.

Note: For the first time you will be able to hear a complete performance of Britten's masterpiece "A Ceremony of Carols" written for treble voices and presented by the famous California Boys' Choir. Click on the "Full Concert" link for an uninterrupted performance. To listen to an individual selection click on the selection title or right-click on the "D/L" symbol to download to a directory of your choice.

"Full Concert"

 

1. PROCESSION

D/L

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Hodie Christus natus est:         Today Christ is born:
hodie Salvator apparuit:            today the Saviour appears:
hodie in terra canunt angeli:     today on earth the angels sing:
lætantur archangeli:                  the archangels announce:
hodie exsultant justi dicentes:  today be exultant and say

                                                    together:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.              Glory to God in the highest.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!        Halleluia! Halleluia! Halleluia!


+++ The drama begins to unfold with the heavenly announcement to the shepherds +++

Wolcum, Wolcum, Wolcum be thou hevenè king,
Wolcum Yole! Wolcum, born in one morning,
Wolcum for whom we sall sing!
Wolcum be ye, Stevene and Jon,
Wolcum, Innocentes every one,
Wolcum, Thomas marter one,
Wolcum be ye, good Newe Yere,
Wolcum, Twelfthe Day both in fere,
Wolcum, seintes lefe and dere,
Wolcum Yole, Wolcum Yole, Wolcum!
                   Candelmesse, Quene of bliss,
                   Wolcum bothe to more and lesse.
Wolcum, Wolcum, Wolcum be ye that are here,
Wolcum Yole, Wolcum alle and make good cheer,
Wolcum alle another yere, Wolcum Yole, Wolcum!

+++ After greeting the heavenly King, we welcome those who were first to follow Him, and the New Year which may bring greater or lesser blessings to all mankind. And welcome to you, our guests, who come to our Ceremony +++

 

banner-mary-sm.jpg (19542 bytes) There is no rose of such vertu as is the rose that bare Jesu.
Alleluia, alleluia.
For in this rose conteinèd was heaven and earth in litel space,
Res miranda, res miranda.
By that rose we may well see there be one God in persons three,
Pares forma, pares forma,
The aungels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis,
gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gaudeamus, gaudeamus.
Leave we all this werldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth.
Transeamus, transeamus, transeamus.
Alleluia, res miranda, pares forma, gaudeamus,
Transeamus, transeamus, transeamus.

+++ In the womb of Mary the fantastic truth of heaven and earth united is made manifest. The doctrine of the Trinity is proclaimed as a design of beauty taking the form of three persons in one. We, observing the celebration of this holy event, move on... +++

"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" Genesis 3:15

(David Hernandez, alto)

c6-adj-med1.jpg (23169 bytes) That yongë child when it gan weep with song she lulled him asleep:
That was so sweet a melody it passèd alle minstrelsy.
The nightingalë sang also: Her song is hoarse . . and nought thereto:
Whoso attendeth to her song and leaveth the first. . then doth he wrong.

+++ In the midst of Mary's lullaby, the Nightingale appears, singing hoarsely of earthly allures and negativity, brightly colored red, like the Scarlet Letter. The Boy of Inspiration, struck with an inner vision of the new Word, interprets the conflict to the other boys, but the Nightingale distracts the boys from the Truth. The Boy of Inspiration's words, "Whoso attendeth to her (the Nightingale's) song and leaveth the first, then doth he wrong" brings the boys to repentance. A young Boy of Naivete, desiring knowledge of evil, but unaware of the consequences, steals the Nightingale from its source. He runs off with it, but coming upon the boy Jesus, throws the bird down, and brings the boy Jesus to the others +++

 

4b. BALULALOW

D/L

(Pepito Zegarra, soprano)

banner-christ-sm.jpg (15957 bytes) O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit, Prepare thy creddil in my spreit,
And I sall rock thee to my hert, And never mair from thee depart.
But I sall praise thee evermoir With sanges sweit unto thy gloir;
The knees of my hert sall I bow, And sing that richt Balulalow.

+++ The Boy of the Lullaby, remembering his own mother's soft songs, gathers the other boys around him, and sings the Lullaby of Mary. The others remember, too, and join in to praise the Holy Child, singing, "I shall praise thee evermore with sweet songs to thy glory. The knees of my heart shall I bow; and it is right to sing that song of praise, Balulalow".+++

 

NOTE: The original composition did not provide a natural break between "As Dew In Aprille" and "This Little Babe." To preserve the original performance both of these selections are combined into one audio file.

I sing of a maiden that is makèles:
King of all kings to her son she ches
He came also stille there his moder was,
As dew in Aprille that falleth on the grass.
He came also stille to his moder's bour,
As dew in Aprille that falleth on the flour.
He came also stille there his moder lay,
As dew in Aprille that falleth on the spray.
Moder and mayden was never none but she:
Well may such a lady Goddes moder be.

+++ The King of all kings came to earth as still as the dew falling on the grass. His childhood was as quiet as the dew falling on the flowers. And His Twelfth year came like the dew in April, in which He, during the Feast of Passover, left his parents, and instead went to the temple. After three days of searching for Him, they found Him, asking, "Why have you treated us like this? We have been looking for you in great anxiety."  

"What made you search?"he said. "Did you not know that I was bound to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what He meant +++ Luke 2:41-52

NOTE: The original composition did not provide a natural break between "As Dew In Aprille" and "This Little Babe." To preserve the original performance both of these selections are combined into one audio file.

 

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This little Babe so few days old, is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake, though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmed wise the gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field, His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries, His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need, and feeble Flesh his warrior's steed.
His camp is pitched in a stall, His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels' trumps alarum sound.
My soul, with Christ join thou in fight; stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward; this little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy.

+++ With only the innocent weapons of Truth, the Holy Child takes on all the forces of hell +++

7. INTERLUDE

THE NIGHTINGALE RENEWED
(Lusciniae Reducis)

+++ The Boy of Naivete, walking through life seeking experience and beauty, comes again upon the bird he has cast away. He is attracted again to its allures, and picking it up, tries to make it sing, but it cannot, having been separated from its source of power. However, the source appears, and takes the bird away from the young boy, who flees in fright. The Boy of Inspiration, finding the Nightingale reunited with its source of power, courageously casts down the two, thus preventing another cycle of negativity. But instead of destroying the Nightingale and its power, he lifts them up with the force of good, with the power of Truth and the weapons of innocence. He brings the other boys to help the bird in its new struggle. Confronted by the boy Jesus, the bird overcomes its evil or negative ways, and changes to white, like the dove of the Spirit. Together the boys show the transformed and renewed bird how to stretch and free itself. While all watch, it takes flight, and escapes the bonds of evil +++

 

c4-med.jpg (20209 bytes) Behold, a silly tender babe, in freezing winter night,
In homely manger trembling lies. Alas, a piteous sight!
The inns are full; no man will yield This little pilgrim bed.
But forced he is with silly beasts in crib to shroud his head.
This stable is a Prince's court, this crib his chair of State;
The beasts are parcel of his pomp, the wooden dish his plate.
The persons in that poor attire His royal liveries wear;
The Prince himself is come from heaven; This pomp is prized there.
With joy approach, 0 Christian wight, Do homage to thy King,


And highly praise his humble pomp, wich he from Heaven doth bring.

 

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+++ In the seasons of life, winter brings death. And in this poem, the baby Jesus wears a shroud, the covering clothing of the grave. The further seeming contradiction of the Heavenly Prince in humble circumstance, the life of Jesus in great humility, points to His unjust but self-appointed reward, a crown of thorns, rather than a crown of diamonds. The Boy of Christian Invitation asks us to approach with joy and do homage to our King. The Boy of Humility tells us to praise His humble pomp, which was prized in heaven +++

(Pepito Zegarra, soprano; David Hernandez, alto)

Pleasure it is to hear iwis, the Birdes sing,
The deer in the dale, the sheep in the vale, the corn springing.
God's purveyance for sustenance, It is for man, it is for man.
Then we always to give him praise, And thank him than.

+++ The earth was created for us to enjoy. All nature praises God, and gives manifold witness to the Resurrection and rebirth, for which we praise God +++

 

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Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
                      Adam lay ibounden, bounden in a bond;
                      Four thousand winter thought he not to long.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
                      And all was for an appil, an appil that he tok,
                      As clerkes finden written in their book.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
                      Ne had the appil take ben, the appil take ben,
                      Ne hadde never our lady a ben hevene quene.
                      Blessed be the time that appil take was.
                      Therefore we moun singen.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias! Deo gracias! Deo gracias!

 

 +++ We remember the Garden of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and give thanks to God for His plan of redemption for us +++

 

11. RECESSIONAL

D/L

Hodie Christus natus est:         Today Christ is born:
hodie Salvator apparuit:            today the Saviour appears:
hodie in terra canunt angeli:     today on earth the angels sing:
laetantur archangeli:                 the archangels announce:
hodie exsultant justi dicentes:  today be exultant and say
                                                    together:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.              Glory to God in the highest.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.          Halleluia! Halleluia! Halleluia!

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+++ The Ceremony does not cease. Instead, we carry it out into the world, praising God, and like the Nightingale renewed, stretch and free ourselves from the power of evil, and fly toward the Light +++

 Copyright © 1976 Robert H. Rogers
(Used with permission)

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