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Sample Pagesfor upper voices (SSAA) 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 upper-voice choir, based on the original SATB version, 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.

Also available for SATB a cappella.

Infant holy,
Infant lowly,
For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing,
Little knowing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging
Angels singing,
Noels ringing,
Tidings bringing,
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping,
Shepherds keeping
Vigil till the morning new,;
Saw the glory,
Heard the story,
Tidings of a Gospel true.
Thus rejoicing,
Free from sorrow,
Praises voicing,
Greet the morrow,
Christ the Babe was born for you!

William Blake (1757–1827)

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 composer, cellist, and piano and cello teacher. 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, which include psalm settings, carols, and settings of other texts, biblical and secular, are written in a recognisable, engaging and personal style. Becky’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem In the bleak midwinter has become very widely performed following its premiere recording by Truro Cathedral Choir, broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and publication by Boosey & Hawkes. She has also written numerous songs for solo voice and works for string ensembles.

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