Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming - Advent or Christmas?
  • Depending on the parish, I've seen this hymn used in both seasons (sometimes just the choir). The text seems somewhat prophetic, and it's based on Isaiah 11:1-10, which is read on Advent II in Year A. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!
  • I enjoy singing it, but I wouldn't recommend it for congregational singing anywhere except the Ordinariate.
    Thanked by 1thomascummins
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    This Marian hymn of German origin ("Es ist ein Ros entsprungen") is actually appropriate for both Advent and Christmas. It's absurd to think it is only appropriate for congregational singing in the Ordinariate. By the way, it's in Worship IV.
    From Hymnary.org:
    This Advent and Christmas hymn expresses and acknowledges a particular tension we ought to be aware of during the Christmas season. Just as, in the prophecies from Isaiah, a “rose,” or stem, shoots up from the stump, so too do we celebrate Christ’s birth in the knowledge that He brings life out of death. Our celebrations of Christmas must always point us to Easter. We celebrate Christ’s life because His death brings us a new kind of life. So too, the season of Advent points us not only to Christmas, but to the second coming of Christ, when He will finally make all things new. This is a beautiful and peaceful hymn, but there is just a touch of melancholy in the tune. Even in the arrangement the composer was able to convey the tension amidst our celebration, the sorrow that must lie within our rejoicing, if only for a moment. We know what is coming that week before Easter morning, and this should give us reason to pause. But we also know that the tiny babe whose birth we celebrate, our “Rose,” came to “dispel…the darkness everywhere.” Thus, even amid the tension of life out of death, we celebrate the ultimate life we are promised in Christ.

    ***************
    Originally "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen," the carol may date back to the fifteenth century. However, the earliest manuscript containing the text, found in St. Alban's Carthusian monastery in Trier and preserved in the Trier municipal library, is dated around 1580. It was first published with twenty-three stanzas in Alte catholische geistliche Kirchengesiinge (Cologne, 1599). Originally stanza 2 interpreted the "rose" as being Mary, mother of Jesus. But in Musae Sionae (1609) Michael Praetorius changed the interpretation to point to Christ as the rose in accord with actual biblical imagery. In that hymnbook Praetorius published only stanzas 1 and 2.

    The text combines the story of Christ’s birth with the prophecies in Isaiah about the “rose” from the “stem of Jesse.” The second verse originally interpreted “rose” to mean Mary, the mother of Jesus, but in 1609, Michael Praetorius changed the interpretation to point to Christ, thus fitting with the actual Biblical imagery. He then published the hymn with only stanzas one and two and added a harmonization. The first two verses were translated into English by Theodore Baker around 1894.

    Note, however, that the third "translated" verse does not seem to be a translation by Baker, nor does it align with any particular verse of the original German. If a hymn with more than two stanzas is desired, perhaps having the choir sing the the first verse in German before the congregation sings the first two verses in Baker's English translation.
  • I am deeply fond of this hymn, which I have always felt most appropriate on Advent IV, when at the Gospel the Rose Himself blossoms forth in the womb of Mary, who is made manifest as the Root of Jesse and descendant of David. The third verse also calls to mind the Passion of our Lord, which begins at the annunciation as CHGiffen pointed out above. The hymn speaks perfectly of all these things.
  • I once came across this 16th century canon, which is based on the hymn and is quite lovely by itself or sung in alternation with the hymn. It may be useful for those with choirs who struggle with polyphony.
    1700 x 2340 - 321K
  • Perhaps Jackson is able to help with this... I was listening to a recording of the OLW choir singing on a Marian feast once; I cannot for the life of me remember what the occasion was. The processional hymn was another gorgeous Marian text set to Es ist ein Ros entsprungen. I forgot to write it down and promptly lost track of it. I have searched for it in vain with the idea of programming it on Immaculate Conception, with Lo, How a Rose on Advent IV and Annunciation to make a musical and theological connection between the three feasts. Perhaps someone knows the text of which I speak?

    (this would have the added benefit of bringing this worthy hymn more solidly into the congregational repertoire)
  • Lo, How a Rose e'er blooming..
    It is indeed proper to Advent and is only sung during Christmastide because many people like it and don't notice the incongruity - being that the rose blooming has on Christmas bloomed fully, it is no longer blooming, but bloomed - so since it has happened it is no longer to sing of it as blooming after the Christ Mass, since it has already bloomed.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • @liampmcdonough
    A wonderful round. Looks like it was taken from the book Christian Life in Song, edited by Paul R. Ladd. Published by McLaughlin & Reilly in 1963, it went through only one printing so it's very hard to find. An excellent collection with pieces I've found nowhere else.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    I have used this hymn for both Christmas and Advent, despite various publishers labeling it as appropriate for one or the other. It's a good hymn and congregations have no difficulty in singing it. The rose that bloomed never withered and is still blooming today.
  • Around these parts, it’s always used on Advent IV, which typically has Marian elements to it. I never understood why some find this difficult for the congregation. They seem to do fine with it here.

    Many Advent hymns turn into Christmas-lite hymns, particularly in the final verse. I don’t see “Lo, How a Rose” any different from “Savior of the Nations, Come,” where we hear: “Brightly does Christ’s manger shine…” in the final verse or in “Wake, O Wake, and Sleep No Longer,” where we hear “Glory, glory sing the angels…”
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Charles (Giffen),

    I think you mistake my reticence. Lo, how a rose and O Jesulein Suss beg to be sung in parts, and are achingly beautiful when sung well in parts. Accordingly, they should be sung only by congregations which spontaneously sing in 4-parts. The only place I am relatively certain that happens is in Ordinariate parishes, and thus my conclusion.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,400
    Pace MJO, but with Charles I'm on the side of 'ever blooming' rather than 'blown'.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Can I switch sides?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    The only difficulty I have encountered with congregations and 'Lo, how a rose' is when the Alto goes above the sustained melody note. But I do agree with CGZ that four-parts is beautiful, especially in German.

    “Wake, O Wake, and Sleep No Longer,” where we hear “Glory, glory sing the angels…”

    And not only that: "With joy we go: Io, Io! / and sing In dulci jubilo!"
    Thanked by 1Anna_Bendiksen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,611
    I like the bloomin' hymn a lot...

    it's bloomin' every year... so I suppose you could sing it at Christmas since next Advent is less than a year away and it'll be bloomin' again! (end purple)
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • davido
    Posts: 532
    Liam, the other tradition Anglican text for that tune is “A great and mighty wonder,” perhaps that’s what you heard on the Marian feast
  • Since it has bloomed and is blooming yet (e'er'= 'ever') we could sing it when e'er we wish = all year long..
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,097
    Not only do I love this hymn, I love Brahm’s lovely (and quite clever) setting of it too. It’s a real gem.

    https://youtu.be/yPoqaLAHFBI
  • Brahms's setting is particularly moving and meditative as an opening voluntary at Advent lessons and carols - followed immediately by a quiet procession led by the boy (or, if one hasn't boys) a soprano soloist singing the first stanzan
  • The only difficulty I have encountered with congregations and 'Lo, how a rose' is when the Alto goes above the sustained melody note.


    Thank you for this, Salieri. As a beginning composer, I find it very useful to know the consequences of breaking the rules!

    Since it has bloomed and is blooming yet (e'er'= 'ever') we could sing it when e'er we wish = all year long..


    That's a lovely idea, MJO. There's a thread that someone ought to start: "Lo, Christmas hymns e'er rising." An Anglican clergyman of my acquaintance used to argue for singing Christmas hymns all year round. If I recall correctly, he actually did program a few such pieces one boiling Chicago summer, which made for refreshing sermons.
  • Anna,

    Those "rules" are applicable in specific situations. See the work of William Byrd, or Orlando Lassus or.... gosh, lots and lots of other composers of polyphony .... to observe that parts can cross. The problem Salieri identifies involves hymn singing when an interior part crosses the melody.
  • That there is a rule governing the alto's rising above the sopranos I should think it ill-founded and hardly (as Chris observes) eccentric.

    As for singing Christmas hymns (or, for that matter, any seasonal hymns) at other times during the year, I would encourage it.
    After all, Christmas, Easter, etc, are happening throughout history (all the time), are they not?
    We ought to be celebrating them as such - just more so on their given day of celebration. Why, I caught myself just the other day singing Veni Sancte Spiritus.
    The last several days it is Jerusalem the Golden which has monopolizsed mu mind - especially the stanza in which we sing about how 'Our Lady sings Magnificat...
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,400
    As I read once in Mad Magazine, "Christmas is always coming, if you really think about it." One of my choir members had a year-round creche occupying half the living room, which I found touching, but no one once drafted for a 'Christmas in July' concert would ever dream of giving any encouragement.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,097
    I just broke those “rules” this past week, because swapping the alto and tenor notes in one line of my arrangement made each part eminently more singable (avoided awkward intervals for each part). The chord was the same in the end, but each line was easier to hear by switching a few notes around. Better this way than to have each section struggle and not sing the chord properly.

    (A relates example of this comes to mind with Tallis’ 3rd mode melody… the voices aren’t “switched” per se, but one does often hear the tenor as the melody. At least… that’s how some recordings strike my ear. It’s my favorite hymn tune by a country mile.)
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    There is one standard rule of voice leading that should be observed rather strictly when your singers are the usual amateurs: the rule against voices *overlapping* in sequence (the exception, with good amateurs, would be at the end of a cadence and what follows). Over decades, it would invariably be treacherous for choristers.

    * Illustrated in the top two voices here: https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=http://partwritingerrors.weebly.com/uploads/5/2/3/6/52369877/6494143.png?427&f=1&nofb=1
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,744
    I just broke those “rules” this past week, because swapping the alto and tenor notes in one line of my arrangement made each part eminently more singable (avoided awkward intervals for each part).
    Swapping of inner voices is actually quite okay.
  • FKulash
    Posts: 37
    Perhaps the hymn that liampmcdonough mentioned on November 23 is "A Great and Mighty Wonder", paraphrased from Germanus of Constantinople by John Mason Neale (attached).
  • IdeK
    Posts: 85
    This discussion reminds me the time when I was in some french equivalent of grad school and I prepared the hymns for the chaplaincy mass. One of my friends was perplexed because she thought Venez divin Messie was a Christmas hymn, not an advent hymn.

    Wait, why do you think that we sing "Venez" ?

    (Yes, I know : it is an Advent hymn but the tune comes from very old French Christmas songs, which Charpentier used for his Noels sur les instruments)