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for mixed choir (SATB) a cappella Text: English (Christina Rossetti) Duration: 4'00'' Difficulty: 2/5 Use: Christmas
Composer's note In the bleak midwinter is a setting for four-part choir of the famous poem by Christina Rossetti. This poem came to mind when I was walking down a Cornish lane on a cold, bleak November day, and I began to put the words to music as I walked. I was a little hesitant to write a setting of this text in the light of other much loved versions, but I felt inspired so decided to go for it!
An atmosphere of cold, winter stillness is conveyed in this piece with its gentle dissonances and slow, homophonic movement, and the music follows the natural rhythm of the words, resulting in frequent changes of bar-length. Each verse is set to the same music, but in the final verse the music responds to the climax of the poem, with the words ‘give my heart’ repeated three times, rising in intensity but then falling away again to finish as the piece began, in quiet stillness. A natural shape and line to each phrase should be led by the text, with subtle shading off and no hurrying at the end of lines. Likewise, the poem's punctuation should guide breathing. Overall, a sense of space should prevail but without the tempo dragging.
Recommended recording: Truro 125 (Regent REGCD422) by Truro Cathedral Choir directed by Christopher Gray.
Text In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone, Snow had fallen snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter Long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, Nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign: In the bleak midwinter A stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty Jesus Christ.
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, – Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)
Becky McGlade Becky was born in 1974 and grew up in Cornwall. She studied music at Royal Holloway, University of London, and after graduating, returned to Cornwall where she now leads a busy musical life as a cellist, composer, and piano and cello teacher. She performs regularly with various orchestras and ensembles including the ‘Classical Strings Trio’ and the cello quartet ‘Cello Cornwall’. Becky developed a love of singing at an early age and her interest in sacred choral music grew during her time as a member of the Royal Holloway Chapel Choir. She now composes mainly choral music and draws much of her inspiration from her Christian faith. Her works include psalm settings, carols, and settings of other texts, both biblical and secular. She has also written numerous songs and works for string ensembles. Many of her compositions have been performed at local venues. Her carol Clouded with Snow was recorded by the ensemble ‘The Queen’s Six’ and In the bleak midwinter was recorded by Truro Cathedral Choir and has been played on BBC Radio 3.