A Ceremony of Carols

Candle on Christmas tree 3

In celebration of the holiday season, here is music by the twentieth century English composer Benjamin Britten.  A Ceremony of Carols is scored for three part treble chorus, solo voices and harp.  The text, from Gerald Bullett’s The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems is Middle English.

Listen to the uniquely pure timbre produced by the boys’ choirs in these recordings.  This is a sound that has been heard for centuries in cathedrals across England.

Listen to the way Britten uses harmony to highlight a certain word or phrase in the text.  How does he evoke the mood of the text?  In the last clip (In Freezing Winter Night) what atmosphere is created musically?

A Ceremony of Carols, Op.28…Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

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The complete Ceremony of Carols performed by the Antioch Chamber Ensemble:


5 Responses to A Ceremony of Carols

  1. Anonymous December 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Thank you for sharing the pure sounds of these boys and of Britten’s work.

  2. elgolfodecalifornia December 25, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    What a ray of sunshine. In the 60s, I helped my Jr. College as an accompanist (piano) for this during rehearsals. They performed it with the harp though. In the 70s, did the same in Madrid with the University Choir. This time they couldn’t find a harpist, so I accompanied the choir in several gothic cathedrals of the region. What a delight! Thank you for this post.

  3. Andrew Williams January 4, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Absolutely gorgeous music. Thanks for posting.

  4. Jill Burk March 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Lovely music…Do you know where i can find the piano solo sheet music for the song “In Freezing Winter Night?

    • Timothy Judd March 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      It looks like the full piano score is available and can be ordered from a few places online.

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