Christmas polyphony
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    I'm looking for something nice for my choir for Christmas.

    Did Tallis or Byrd write anything like a Christmas cycle of songs, esp. in English? In other words, was there oratorio in the Renaissance?
  • Simon
    Posts: 146
    I'm not an expert but oratorio didn't come into vogue until the 1700s. The 1600s saw opera come into its own. Don't think you'll find an animal called a Renaissance oratorio. Renaissance composers stuck to motets and masses for sacred pieces.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    Thanks, Simon.

    Just curious, though, if there were groups of motets written to be sung together, or sequentially at a season of Masses. Something like that.
  • For things sung 'sequentially at a season' it sounds as though the Gradualia of Wllm. Byrd could be what you are looking for. The Gradualia is a setting of the propers polyphonically for the liturgical year. There are similar collections by others.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    Sounds good, thanks!
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    I was briefly in a choir for a Low Mass during Advent the year before last. These songs aren't grouped together like what you're asking for, but the polyphony we sang was:

    Veritas Mea by George Malcolm (my personal favorite)
    Ave Verum Corpus by Giacomo Carissimi
    Veni Veni Emmanuel arranged by Jason Phillips
    Dixit Maria by Hans Leo Hassler
    Ave Maria by Tomas Luis de Victoria
    Magnificat Sexti Toni by Orlando di Lasso

    then of course we did Advent chants like Creator Alme Siderum and En Clara Vox Redarguit.

    I thought it was pretty top-notch stuff. You might like one or two of them. I dunno.

    EDIT: missed that you were asking for stuff in English. That I do not have.
  • How about O Magnum Mysterium, or any of these: Ye Sacred Muses, Tribulationes civitatum, Vigilate by Byrd?

    Can your choir handle Palestrina?
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    Any of the Byrd settings of the gradual are nice, here are some for Christmas:

    Introit- Puer Natus ---
    Gradual- Viderunt Omnes ---
    Alleluia - Dies Santificatus ---
    Offertory - Tui Sunt Coeli ---
    Communion - Viderunt Omnes ---

    Viderunt Omnes (communion) is the shortest and easiest if you are short on rehearsal time
  • Wow, Erik, thank you, that may come in handy for me as well. However from glossing over Puer Natus, I must say that I've never seen a tenor part that went quite so high (and written in treble clef, no less), nor an alto part that went quite so low! Have you done these before? Did you make modifications?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    Great, thanks!

    Yes, we've done some Palestrina and Lassus, and came close to finishing O Magnum for last Christmas.

    Anything in English, by chance?
  • Ah, but all the good stuff is in Latin!

    What about Handel's Messiah? It's long, but it's in English :)
    How about I Wonder as I Wander? Do you have a solost who can hack this part?

    Good luck!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • What is your opinion of RIu RIu, and Gaudate? I have some chant punks who are asking for these.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
  • Check Oxford University Press catalogues. A good resource might be "Advent for Choirs" from OUP.
    Check the seasonal categories at CPDL. These can serve as good "spring-boards" for other ideas.
    Check the works of Gerald Near, Ned Rorem, Richard Proulx, Leo Nestor, Peter Latona; also the Saint Louis
    Cathedral Choral series from Morningstar Music, etc. Good Luck in your search!
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    The obvious answer is Britten's 'Ceremony of Carols' as written for ssa or arr.for SATB with Harp acc.

  • Ralph, I think "Gaudete" was collectively dissed in another thread last year. I remember not chiming in but thinking that it is regarded as a "Revels" kind of work. I would think "Riu, riu..." falls into that category as well- suited for the minstrels in the courtyard, not the schola in the chapel.
    Kathy, a chorister-composer from Baltimore I met one Sunday in my parish, Douglas Kingsley, has a very lovely, modest setting of the "O magnum..." published by OCP/Trinitas. Worth checking out.
    We've managed the Victoria once. I'd give my little toes up if we could do the Poulenc setting!
    I have some other polyphonic motets in the library I'll check on Monday.
    Dixit Maria, FWIW, is most appropriate 4th Advent, oui?
    There are some stunning modern works that could be defended as "children" of polyphony:
    John Payntner's "The Rose"
    David Conte's "A Stable Lamp is Lighted"
    Alf Houkem's "The Rune of Hospitality"
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,476
    Thanks, everyone!

    We do well with Tallis' If Ye Love Me. I'd love to find something similar, from the same time, in English, for Christmas.

    Never did get the hang of ordering off the menu! ;)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,690

    If there are no Renaissance oratorios, there are cycles of office music, including some for Christmas: I'm thinking of Lassus' Responsories from Isaiah and I'm sure there are others. If you're putting together a prelude/concert a mass setting like Tallis' 7-part Puer nobis might fit the bill nicely. For English you're a bit early, though you might be able to piece together non-liturgical items.
  • What about Byrd's Lullaby My Sweet Little Baby? Sounds close to If Ye Love Me....
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    What about something from the Oxford Book of carols? What about Sweelinck's
    Hodie Christus natus est? Fairly difficult, but I know there's an English translation underneath the Latin
    Sorry, I know that's not what you are looking for. It just came to mind after a glass or two of wine with dinner LOL
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    What about one of the Buxtehude cantatas? The choir parts are not difficult.

  • Ditto for the Buxtehude's.
  • For good English choral music, you will need to look to the Anglican tradition mentioned above.

    The Holy Boy by John Ireland
    A Spotless Rose by Herbert Howells
    Lullaby my Jesus, Bethlehem Down both by Warlock
    The Blessed Son of God by Vaughan Williams
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Here is the Little Door by Howells, (and the other one which goes with spotless rose- Sing Lullaby?) Other composers have set 'Here is the Little Door'- Randall Thompson for one. We could all go on for hours listing our favorite English Christmas motets or anthems.
    I love John Ireland, and Eric Thiman, and Michael Head. And Roger Quilter, etc etc etc.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • Does somebody have sheet music for Silent night in latin? ("Silens nox" or "Alma nox" or another translation )
  • Funny how these threads get “resurrected”. :)

    I’ve used de Rivulo’s “Verbum caro” to great effect several times. There is also an “O magnum” of Stadylmayr that’s quite simple but can be lovely.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,204
    And in English, Willan's "The Three Kings". Not easy, but do-able by a church choir. (Two of mine did it pretty well.)

    By the way: the PDF of Byrd's "Puer Natus" has a misprint towards the middle of the piece; the word is "(magnum) conSilii" not "conFilii".
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,103
    There is also an “O magnum” of Stadylmayr that’s quite simple but can be lovely.

    Here's my (slight) arrangement of the Stadlmayr.
    Thanked by 2Cantus67 cesarfranck
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,204
    Nice arrangement, too!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Bumping a twelve-year old thread which has been dormant for five because the topic (Christmas polyphony) is always timely...

    Isaac's Puer Natus is from the Introit.
    Garton-Zavesky's Puer Natus is from the hymn. I have the other seven verses somewhere, but I can't find them.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,581
    We sang Isaac's Puer Natus last year it was great!
  • I found the second part, which uses the same music as the previous seven verses.