When I was asked to write a new song for BBC Music Magazine, I started to wonder what makes Christmas carols so enchanting, how a modern Christmas carol could fit into the wonderful repertoire that already exists, and most importantly, what exactly we love about them. When I asked my friends and family what might be their favorite Christmas carol and why, I was delighted to find that the range of preferences was so vast. Christmas carols can spark such a wide range of festive memories for all of us, from carols in cold churches surrounded by snow to families huddled in front of warm fires and welcoming greetings of good news.
My favorite is Christina Rossetti’s Holst frame In the dark middle of winter. I love the simplicity of the music and that, even though the text was written in 1872, the descriptions of the winter landscape, the references to the sacred Christmas story and that beautiful “what can I give it ? moment of introspection still seems relevant in our world today. Inspired by this, I decided to write my own poem for this year’s song. The words, which represent snow-capped landscapes and starry allusions to the sky and the earth, also include a modern twist as I dream of coming home at Christmas under the warm glow of the street lamps all covered in silvery frost.
A winter song is written in three verses, with a short chorus between which the word “winter” repeats (in bar 9, for example). a targeted delivery of words, the piece is a festive little reflection of the Christmas season and it’s not necessarily sentimental. The song begins in quiet consideration before opening up a little later. During verses, there are moments of almost call-and-response patterns between the upper and lower voices (in bar 11, for example, with “creation expectations” starting in the tenors and basses before moving on. sopranos and violas in the bar suite).
In the choruses (which occur with soprano highlights in bars 9, 20, and 35), feel free to add embellishing swells of dynamic interest to the repeated word “winter”. From bar 20 onwards, the song should be quite warm and warm when you sing the loudest dynamics. Pay more attention to the dynamics from bar 29 onwards, as marking the pianoforte in bar 30 can be really effective if you overdo it as well as the longer crescendo in bars 33 and 34. Make sure to having reached a strong dynamic peak by bar 35, however, so that when you suddenly descend to a really calm dynamic at bar 37, it looks like a big contrast.
This section, consisting of bars 37-42, can be quite playful in nature. The upper parts sway gently while below, almost in a whisper at first, the lower voices have soft interjections. This builds up, more and more dynamic, until all the parts are brought together again in bar 42 ready for the final coda, which reverts to a softer, thoughtful expression reminiscent of the opening passage.
I hope you will like to sing A winter song. Many thanks for taking the time to do this and Merry Christmas!
To purchase additional copies of A Winter Carol, visit boosey.com/WinterCarol