Greatest Hits

Veni, Veni Emmanuel – arr. Hamilton

Most Highly Favored Lady – arr. Massey
Wide, Wide in the Rose’s Side – Martinson

Salve puerile – Charpentier
O Magnum Mysterium – Childs

What Child is this – arr. Parker/Shaw
Wexford Carol – arr. Rutter

O Magnum Mysterium – Lauridsen


Ding, Dong Merrily on High – arr. Wood

Psallite – Praetorius
In dulci jubilo – Praetorius

Dies est laetitiae – Samotulinus
Hodie Christus Natus Est – Sweelinck

The First Noel – arr. Meader
Twelve Days of Christmas – arr. Keating

Jingle Bells – arr. Langford

Notes and Translations

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

arr. Leah Hamilton (b. 1982)

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is perhaps the oldest Advent melody to remain popular in modern culture. The ancient Latin text was originally a series of antiphons and only later, in the 15th century, did it become the Plain Song chant based on a French processional melody that we know today. Composer Leah Hamilton writes, “The melody in “O Come, O Come” has a certain mysticism that has always intrigued me, and it lends itself to many options in chord progression and style for any composer. This arrangement pays homage to the origin of the song, beginning with the original text and melody. Each subsequent verse, in the popular English translation, adds complexity with rich texture. To me, the melody demands intrigue, therefore I wrote this with a gradual climax that eventually ends peacefully, symbolizing that Christ has indeed come.” A founding member of Octarium, Hamilton arranged this piece for the group in December 2005.

Veni, veni Emmanuel,
Captivum salve Israel
Qui gemit in exilio
Privatus Dei Filio
Gaude, gaude Emmanuel,
Nascetur prote Israel.

O Come, o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, thou wisdom from on high
And order all things far and high
To us the path of knowledge flow,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Most Highly Favored Lady

arr. Warren Massey (b. 1931)

Wide, Wide in the Rose’s Side

Joel Martinson (b. 1960)

Local composer Warren Massey arranged “Most Highly Favored Lady” for Octarium in 2004. A finely-composed telling of the Gabriel story, Massey’s arrangement of the old Basque carol has become one of Octarium’s favorite pieces.

Of Mary, the Christ was born,
In Bethlehem on Christmas morn,
A blessed mother she became.
All generations laud her name,
Most highly favored lady. Gloria.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria.

“For know ablessed mother thou shalt be.”
“A blessed mother I shall be?”
“All generations laud and honor thee.”
“All generations honor me?”
“Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria.

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said.
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
Most highly favored lady. Gloria.

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say,
“Most highly favored lady. Gloria!”

Joel Martinson’s beautiful setting of a poem by American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) uses complimentary harmonies and a beautiful soprano solo to highlight the text, as well as flexible meter to bring out the natural rhythm of the spoken poem.

Wide, wide in the rose’s side
Sleeps a child without sin.
And any man who loves in this world
Stands here on guard over him.


Salve puerile

Marc- Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 1704)

O Magnum Mysterium

David N. Childs (b. 1969)

Not much is known of Charpentier’s early life, but shortly after his eighteenth birthday he went to study in Rome with Giacomo Carissimi, composer of the 1649 oratorio Jephte.
Although Charpentier was a close contemporary of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) Lully was the favored composer of the spectacle-loving king, and Charpentier received very few royal commissions. It may have been because of Lully’s monopoly over the performance of stage works that Charpentier turned to religious oratorios and the church for employment. From the early 1680s until his death he was employed by the Jesuits, establishing himself as one of the most important composers of French sacred music.

“Salve puerule” is from the Christmas Oratorio In nativitatem D.N.J.C. Canticum (H. 414 c.1684) Historical performance practice of this motet is nebulous, ranging from solo singer with basso continuo to an SSATB choral setting. Octarium’s performance of the piece will attempt to pay homage to both practices.

Salve, puerule,
Hail, little child,
salve, tenellule,
hail, tender babe,
O nate parvule,
O tiny child,
quam bonus es.
how good you are.
Tu coelum deseris,
You leave heaven
tu mundo nasceris,
and are born in the world for us,
Nobis te ut miseris
making yourself like us
poor wretches.

The oft-set Latin text of “O Magnum Mysterium” comes from the Divine Office, which is chanted every day in monastic orders. “O Magnum” is the fifth responsory at matins on Christmas Day. Childs’ setting is compact and austere, beautifully using haunting harmonies to illustrate the great mystery.

O magnum mysterium
O great mystery
et admirabile sacramentum
and wondrous sacrament
ut animalia viderent Dominum
that animals should see the Lord
natum, jacentem in praesepio.
born, lying in a manger.
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
meruerunt portare
was worthy to bear the
Dominum Christum. Alleluia!
Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
Domine audivi auditum tuum
Lord, I heard your instruction
et timui consideravi opera tua
and I feared and considered your works
et expavi in medio duorum anumalium.
and I trembled in the midst of two animals.


What Child is this

arr. Alice Parker (b. 1925) and Robert Shaw (1916-1999)

Wexford Carol

arr. John Rutter (b. 1945)

The legend that Henry VIII, who died in 1547, wrote “Greensleeves” has been floating around since the late 16th century, when the tune appeared in a collection of songs called A Handful of Pleasant Delights in 1584. Shakespeare mentioned “Greensleeves” in the 17th century but no previous mention of the tune or poem has been found in earlier works. No record of the piece has been found among Henry’s manuscripts, and some of the musical intervals were not used in Henry’s time. But the legend is a strong one, and there is some evidence that the “Greensleeves” may have been based on an old Welsh lullaby. Henry VIII was part Welsh, and very proud of that heritage. It is possible that Henry might have set a poem to the lullaby. The addition of this Christmas text to the tune did not occur until William Dix wrote the words in 1865. Usually performed in a ponderous manner, Octarium bases their performance on the origin of the tune, where it functioned, most likely, as a dance.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Rutter’s arrangement of the traditional Irish tune is set in a variety for voicings that highlight the carefree elegance of the tune and alleviate the dreaded repetitiveness of strophic songs. Rutter’s harmonic brilliance is at its height in this piece, as the voices weave a beautiful tapestry underneath the solo lines.

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day;
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox’s stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
‘Prepare and go,’ the angels said.
‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid:
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find.
And as God’s angel had foretold,
They did our saviour Christ behold.
Within a manger he was laid,
And by his side the virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.

O Magnum Mysterium

Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)

Understated and filled with the awe of the mystery, Lauridsen’s popular setting of the popular text is, in his own words, “a quiet song of profound inner joy.” However, inner joy becomes outer joy midway through the setting with an expansion of the texture that creates one of the most sublime moments in choral music.

O magnum mysterium
O great mystery
et admirabile sacramentum
and wondrous sacrament
ut animalia viderent Dominum
that animals should see the Lord
natum, jacentem in praesepio.
born, lying in a manger.
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
meruerunt portare
was worthy to bear the
Dominum Christum. Alleluia!
Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!


Ding, Dong Merrily on High

French traditional carol

arr. Charles Wood (1866-1926)

“Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a secular dance tune from the sixteenth century set with sacred words from the early twentieth. The tune first appeared in Orchésographie, a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519-1593). The text was penned by George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934) and was first published, set to the dance tune, in 1924.

Ding dong! merrily on high in heav’n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky is riv’n with Angel singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

E’en so here below, below, let steeple bells be swungen,
And “Io, io, io!” by priest and people sungen.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Pray you, dutifully prime your Matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime your Evetime Song, ye singers.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!


Michael Praetorius (1571 -1621)  English text by John Rutter

In dulci jubilo


Praetorius’ given name was Michael Schultheiß (German for “mayor,” which in Latin is “Praetorius”). He was not only a composer, but also a musicologist. From 1605 to 1610, he edited Musae Sioniae, a collection of 1,244 arrangements of songs and hymns in nine volumes. History remembers him chiefly for his Syntagma musicum (3 vol., 1615–19), which minutely describes the musical practices and the instruments of his day and has become an important source for those seeking to perform 17th century music with authenticity.

Psallite unigenito
Sing psalms
Christo, Dei Filio,
To Christ, the Son of God,
Psallite redemptori,
Sing psalms to the Redeemer,
Domino, puerulo
To the Lord, the little Child
jacenti in praesepio.
lying in a manger bed.

Lo, in a manger bed there lies an infant small
Angel hosts their homage pay before the lord of all.

Glory to God on high the choirs of angels sing,
Peace on earth goodwill to men their voices echoing.

The text for “in dulci jubilo” originated with a vision of the German mystic and Dominican monk Henrich Suso; one night, in 1328, he dreamed he joined angels dancing as the angels sang “In Dulci Jubilo” to him. “In Dulci Jubilo” is among the oldest and most famous of the “macaronic songs,” a song that combines Latin and a vernacular language such as English or German. Five hundred years later, this carol became the inspiration for the 1853 English paraphrase by John Mason Neale, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”

In dulci jubilo
With sweet rejoicing
nun singet und seid froh!
now sing and be glad!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
Our hearts’ delight
leit in præsepio,
is lying in a manger
und leuchtet als die Sonne,
and shines forth like the sun
matris in gremio.
on His mother’s lap.
Alpha es et O!
You are the Alpha and Omega.

Dies est laetitiae

Venceslaus Samotulinus (c. 1524-c.1572)

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

Samotulinius was appointed to the court of King Sigismund Augustus as composer to the Royal Chapel in 1547. There he composed large-scale religious works, most of which are now lost. In 1555 Samotulinus left Kraków and joined the camp of the Polish Calvinists, where he started writing simple polyphonic song settings to Polish texts. It was at this time that he used a melody eventually published in Piae Cantiones (1582) to set a Polish text equivalent to the Latin text “Dies est laetitiae.”

Dies est laetitiae, in ortu regali
This is a joyful day, in regal splendor
Nam processit hodie claustro virginali
An admirable boy has come forth from a virgin’s womb.
Puer admirabilis vultu delectabilis
He is beautiful
In humanitate
In his humanity
Qui in aestimabilis est et ineffabilis in divinitate
Inestimable and ineffable in his divinity.

Sweelinck was born in Amsterdam and in 1580 he succeeded his father as the organist of the Oude Kerk. Sweelinck rarely left Holland but his influence spread through the North German organ school through the travels of his students Scheidt, Praetorius, and Hasse. Sweelinck’s compositional style was highly influential, and his compositions bridge the gap from the Renaissance to the Baroque periods. “Hodie Christus natus est,” from Cantiones sacrae (1619), is a mastery of contrapuntal writing. Each section begins with the distinctive tenor outcry of “Hodie,” and culminates in skillfully composed exuberant calls of “Noe” (Noel) or “Alleluia.”

Hodie Christus natus est
Today Christ is born
Noe, noe.Hodie Salvator apparuit, Alleluia.
Noel, Noel! Today the Savior has appeared, Alleluia
Hodie in terra canunt angeli
Today the angels sing on earth
Lætantur archangeli Noe, Noe
Today archangels rejoice Noel, Noel
Hodie exultant iusti, dicentes
Today the righteous leap up, saying
Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia. Noe
Glory to God in the highest, Alleluia, Noel

The First Noel

arr. Darmon Meader

Twelve Days of Christmas

arr. Keating

Darmon Meader is considered one of the premier vocalists, arrangers and saxophonists in jazz today. He achieved rapid international recognition as the founder, musical director, chief arranger, composer, producer, saxophonist and vocalist with New York Voices. His arrangement of “The First Noel” is warm, with jazz harmonies that bring new life to the well-known melody.

The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.


The origins of the next piece are hotly contested; both the sacred and the secular claim “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Those who testify to its sacred meaning, believe that the song was written in England, during the reigns of the Protestant Tudor monarchs, as a way for oppressed Catholics to teach the faith to their children; the “true love” is God; the “me” who receives the presents is to every baptized Christian and each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn. On the other side of the claim is the notion that Catholics were not as persecuted as history portrays (William Byrd, a practicing Catholic, was part of the court of Elizabeth I, for example) and that the utility of a Christmas song as a means of memorizing a catechism would be quite limited, as its use would obviously be restricted to Christmastime. They point to a dearth of other rhymes and songs with similar hidden meanings that Catholics would have used for their catechism throughout the rest of the year. There is no clear answer to the controversy. But one feels the need to point out the irony of the underlying message of those in the sacred camp; the sacred interpretation of the song serves only to remind us that one group of Christians had to hide their beliefs in order to avoid being tortured and killed by another group of Christians. Of all the aspects of Christianity to celebrate at Christmastime, should this really be one of them? Much more palatable is to view the song as a simple, secular song that celebrates the season with images of gifts, dancing, music and love.

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Twelve Drummers Drumming

Jingle Bells

arr. Gordon Langford (b. 1930)

We close with a fantastic arrangement of a popular holiday song arranged for that popular ensemble, the King’s Singers.