Christmas Hath a Darkness: Four Carols for Advent (2007-2016)
In the bleak mid-winter: HOL choir, Eibhlín Ni Ghríofa, soprano, cond. Esko Kallio (live)
I. This Advent Moon (2013) SSAATTBB (+ SATBar soli); 5 min.
II. Earth grown old (2016) SSAATTBB; 5min 30 sec.
III. In the bleak mid-winter (2007); S solo+SATB (div.); 3 min.
IV. Love came down at Christmas (2016); SSAATTBB; 3 min.
(texts: Christina Rossetti – in English)
Published by Fennica Gerhman
This cycle of carols, to the poetry of Christina Rossetti, was assembled piecemeal over a number of years, gradually acquiring a larger dramatic and harmonic arch shape as new settings were added. I was particularly attracted to Rossetti’s conflation of the dark, fallow winter landscape with that of the soul waiting for salvation. The cycle traces the long nights of watchfulness before Christmas, with the great event constantly deferred, only glimpsed periodically in different visions before the music turns inward again to contemplation. The opening carol embodies this spirit, with passages of diffuse, roving harmony interspersed with meditative, lyrical pedals, calling out the night watch and dreaming of a far-off summer of the spirit. Earth Grown Old is a kind of double carol, setting two complete poems, their lines at first presented separately as a still, expectant chorale and a jubilant dance, then progressively interwoven toward a fervent climax before once again receding into quiet. In the bleak mid-winter, which sets a highly compressed version of Rossetti’s original poem, presents an enfeebled landscape frozen in time, in dire need of deliverance. A gentle melody weaves its way through static drones, broken by an angels’ chorus announcing the joy to come. Love Came Down at Christmas ends the waiting, with its gently falling, overlapping lines building to a final revelation, the mystery of Christmas at last made real.