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