Veni, Veni Emmanuel – arr. Hamilton

Lo, How a Rose – arr. Gawthrop

Wide, Wide in the Rose’s Side – Martinson

A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells

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

The First Noel – arr. Meader

Psallite – Praetorius
In dulci jubilo – Praetorius

Hodie Christus Natus Est – Sweelinck

Let It Snow – arr. Richards

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.   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.” 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.


Lo How a Rose – arr. Daniel Gawthrop (b. 1949)

Wide, Wide in the Rose’s Side – Joel Martinson (b. 1960)

A Spotless Rose – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

Daniel Gawthrop’s arrangement of this 16th century German carol is featured on Octarium’s 2009 CD release Modern Masters.    Mr. Gawthrop writes,

Writing this arrangement of the well-known “Lo, How a Rose” melody and text offered me the interesting challenge of preserving a feeling of great antiquity even while cloaking the tune in clearly modern harmonies. Though I normally try, for purely practical reasons, to restrain myself from extensive use of divisi, in this instance I risked the use of an extremely rich palette, just to see whether the sumptuous textures could be made to serve the text without lapsing into unjustifiable indulgence. Listeners will have to judge for themselves whether I have succeeded, but I’ve not yet received any complaints.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as seers of old have sung.

It came, a blossom bright, amid the cold of winter,

When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;

With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.

To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,

When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,

Dispel with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;

True Man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us,

And lighten every load.

anonymous German carol circa 1580

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.

Taken from Three Carol Anthems, “A Spotless Rose,” by the English composer Herbert Howells, is a musical setting of an anonymous 14th century text.  Howells composed this anthem in 1918, when he was in his 20s, thus predicting his future as the most prolific composer of music for the English church in the twentieth century.

A Spotless Rose is blowing,

Sprung from a tender root,

Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,

Of Jesse promised fruit;

Its fairest bud unfolds to light

Amid the cold, cold winter,

And in the dark midnight.

The Rose which I am singing,

Whereof Isaiah said,

Is from its sweet root springing

In Mary, purest Maid;

For through our God’s great love and might

The Blessed Babe she bare us

In a cold, cold winter’s night.



Salve puerile – Marc- Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 1704)

O Magnum Mysterium – David N. Childs (b. 1969)

Charpentier was a close contemporary of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) but 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,

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.   There is no proof but the idea gives the tune a different shape and interpretation.  The Christmas text with which we are familiar was written in 1865 by William Dix.

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)

The First Noel – arr. Darmon Meader

“Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a secular dance tune from the sixteenth century set with sacred words from the early twentieth. 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!

Darmon Meader is considered one of the premier vocalists, arrangers and saxophonists in jazz today. 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.




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

In dulci jubilo – Praetorius

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.


Hodie Christus Natus Est – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

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.  “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


Let It Snow – arr. Richards

Urban legend insists that “Let it Snow,” by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne, was written during one of the hottest days on record in July 1945, which would make sense since it never mentions the winter holidays.

Oh the weather outside is frightful,

But the fire is so delightful,

And since we’ve no place to go,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn’t show signs of stopping,

And I brought some corn for popping,

And the lights are turned way down low,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,

How I hate going out in the storm!

But if you’ll really hold me tight,

All the way home I’ll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,

And, my dear, we’re still good-bying,

But as long as you love me so,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Twelve Days of Christmas – arr. Keating

The origins of the 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.  Regardless of the real truth, which can never be proven, the song remains a simple one 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)

“Jingle Bells” was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” in 1857.   It was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898 on an Edison cylinder as part of a Christmas medley entitled “Sleigh Ride Party.”  But it may actually be about Thanksgiving, as rumor has it that Pierpont wrote it for a Thanksgiving program at his church in Boston. It was so well received that the children were asked to repeat it at Christmas.  Hmmmm.

program notes by Dr. Krista Lang Blackwood, artistic director