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The mediaeval joy in faith finds its best expression in lyrics on the Nativity and on the role of the Virgin Mary. The ideas of unique birth and everlasting triumph over death combine to remove all darkness, so that Hell is no more than a hazard which Our Lady helps us circumvent. Winter and long nights are forgotten in Her magical dance-song, and the Middle Ages' burning sense of Sin itself is lost in ecstatic reloicing.
1. 'Holy Mary, Mother Mild' is Macaronic, a verse in two languages, Latin and English, where the Latin acts as a burden to the main poem in English.
2.'Of a Rose is all my Song' is a Nativity carol in the Trouvere style comparing the Virgin Mary to a beautiful rose.
3. 'Jesu Son Most Sweet and Dear' is the Virgin's song to the Christ-Child and takes an imaginative leap into the Virgin's experience, portraying tenderness and simplicity.
4.'Let us Gather Hand in Hand' is thought to be the earliest carol discovered in English, appearing in a Franciscan list of sermon outlines written not later than 1350. The refrain conveys the manner of its performance and the joy of the occasion.
The poems were translated by Brian Stone and are reproduced by permission of Penguin Books Ltd from 'Mediaeval English Verse' 1964.
|2nd December 2011
- 4th December 2011
Rockingham Choral Society Christmas concert feature the American premiere of Four Songs of the Nativity by Howard Blake, which combines ancient texts with 21st century music. New Hampshire, USA
|15th December 2007||Cambridge Philharmonic Society, Prime Brass, Emmanuel United Reform Church|
|January 1991||The Bach Choir, St. George's Windsor|
|23rd December 1990||The Bach Choir, Royal Albert Hall|
|19th December 1990||The Bach Choir, Fairfield Hall|
|16th December 1990||The Bach Choir, Royal Albert Hall|
Blake’s Four Songs of the Nativity, carol settings of great charm and vitality which follow, make lovely, spare use of brass (just as the harp is effectively deployed in The Passion of Mary.
Roderick Dunnett, Church Times, 28/5/2010