Britten: A Ceremony of Carols | Convivium Records International
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  1. 1I. Procession
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  2. 2II. Wolcum Yole!
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  3. 3III. There is no Rose
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  4. 4IVa. That yongë child
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  5. 5IVb. Balulalow
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  6. 6V. As dew in Aprille
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  7. 7VI. This little Babe
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  8. 8VII. Interlude
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  9. 9VIII. In Freezing Winter Night
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  10. 10IX. Spring Carol
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  11. 11X. Deo Gracias
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  12. 12XI. Recession
    Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
  13. 13I. Overture
    Benjamin Britten (Suite for Harp)
  14. 14II. Toccata
    Benjamin Britten (Suite for Harp)
  15. 15III. Nocturne
    Benjamin Britten (Suite for Harp)
  16. 16IV. Fugue
    Benjamin Britten (Suite for Harp)
  17. 17V. Hymn
    Benjamin Britten (Suite for Harp)
  18. 18I. Hymn to the Dawn
    Gustav Holst (Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda)
  19. 19II. Hymn to the Waters
    Gustav Holst (Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda)
  20. 20III. Hymn to Vena
    Gustav Holst (Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda)
  21. 21VI. Hymn of the Travellers
    Gustav Holst (Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda)

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Benjamin Britten: A Ceremony of Carols

Malcolm Archer, Winchester College Quipsters, Katie Salomon

  • Catalogue
  • Composer
    Benjamin Britten
  • Composer
    Gustav Holst
  • Conductor
    Malcolm Archer
  • Trebles
    Winchester College Quiristers
  • Choir
    Winchester College Chapel Choir
  • Photography
  • Engineering
    Adaq Khan
  • Mastering
    Adaq Khan
  • Producer
    Andrew King
  • Creative Dir
    Mike Cooter
  • Exec Producer
    Adrian Green


Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols Op.28 was composed in 1942 on board a Swedish cargo vessel – the Axel Johnson, as Britten and Pears returned to England after three very successful years in the United States. The journey took almost a month and must have been very tedious since conditions on board were hardly luxurious. The work has eleven movements, one of which is for solo harp, and uses words from the English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. Several of the texts date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are in middle English, whilst others are by great poets such at Southwell and Cornish. Around the same time, Britten had made a start on Hymn to St.Cecilia and a piece for Benny Goodman, but customs officials confiscated the manuscripts thinking they might contain some sort of secret code. Fortunately for us, Britten managed to finish Hymn to St. Cecilia later.A Ceremony of Carols is scored for three part upper voices and harp and uses a plainsong setting of Hodie Christus natus est to open and close the work: the Procession and Recession are intended to be used as the singers enter and depart. The work is beautifully written for both the voices and the harp, and Britten chooses poems which tell a story about the birth of Christ. After the opening plainsong, we hear Wolcum Yole! an energetic movement with striking chords from the harp. This is followed by a more reflective There is no Rose and then a solo boy sings a plaintive setting of That yongë child with a sparce but effective accompaniment. Then comes Balulalow with a rocking harp accompaniment and a treble soloist at the start. As dew in Aprille (I Sing of a Maiden) has a rousing opening, and then effective overlapping counterpoint between the voices over an animated harp part. This little Babe is a setting of great energy where Christ comes to ‘rifle Satan’s fold’ and ‘all hell doth at his presence quake’. The harp Interlude that follows is cleverly based upon the opening plainsong and imaginatively developed into a very atmospheric movement. In Freezing Winter Night follows with harp trills and a shivering feel to the music, and haunting treble solos at the end. Spring Carol is a delightful call and response duet between two boy soloists, with the second treble responding with ‘the deer in the dale, the sheep in the vale, the corn springing.’ The final carol is Deo Gracias using the words ‘Adam lay ibounden’, and is an exciting setting culminating in rousing harp glissandi’. The boys then leave to the Recession, a repeat of the opening plainsong.

Britten’s Suite for Harp is one of the landmarks in the harp literature. It was composed in 1969 for the leading British harpist Osian Ellis, and performed in the Aldeburgh Festival in the same year. It uses a variety of harp techniques and is written in five contrasting movements, including a majestic opening Overture, a very fast Toccata, a calm and illusive Nocturne, a Fugue and a Hymn which is a wonderful set of variations on the hymn tune St. Denio (Immortal, invisible). Britten’s ingenious use of colour is present throughout the work, which was an immediate success at its first performance.

In the years from 1900 to 1912, Holst developed a keen interest in the early religious literature and poetry of India, and even learned the basics of the Sanskrit language at University College, London. He then made his own translations of a number of Sanskrit poems and decided to set them to music. The Rig Veda is a set of more than 1000 ancient Indian hymns of praise dating from about 1000 BC.

Holst set to music four groups of these hymns entitled Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda. The Third group is scored for upper voices and harp (or piano) and was composed in 1910 for Frank Duckworth and his Ladies’ Choir in Blackburn, Lancashire, and first performed on 16 March 1911. The four movements are Hymn to the Dawn, with a backing of rippling arpeggios, Hymn to the Waters, with its animated rhythm and unusual 21/8 time signature, the gentle and atmospheric Hymn to Vena which describes the sun appearing through the mist, and the elaborate Hymn of the Travellers, with a distinctly Eastern sonority and evoking a God who is the guide of travellers along the roads of this world and that leading to the next.

Winchester College Chapel Choir and Winchester College Quiristers

Winchester College Quiristers (trebles) have for over 625 years sung services in Winchester College Chapel. In modern times they have formed a choir (Winchester College Chapel Choir) renowned for its excellence, under the masterful direction of Malcolm Archer.

In addition to singing four services each week in the College Chapel, the Quiristers regularly broadcast and record. In recent years the Chapel Choir has sung in the USA, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Holland and Russia. They also perform a fascinating mix of both sacred and secular repertoire and regularly sing in London, where performances have included the BBC Promenade Concerts. They also frequently appear on TV and Radio. On three occasions since the Millennium, Quiristers have won the title of BBC Young Chorister of the Year, by any standards an outstanding record.

Malcolm Archer

Malcolm Archer is one of the world’s leading church musicians and has enjoyed a distinguished career in cathedral music, which has taken him to posts at Norwich, Bristol, Wells Cathedrals and then Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He is now Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College, where he is responsible for the College’s ancient choral foundation, conducting the Chapel Choir and teaching the organ and composition. During his time at St. Paul’s Cathedral he directed the choir for several State services, including the Tsunami Memorial Service, the London Bombings Service and the 80th Birthday Service for HM The Queen, for which he was invited by Buckingham Palace to compose a special anthem, performed live on BBC1. His many broadcasts and recordings from Wells and St. Paul’s have received critical acclaim, and his CD of Christmas music from St. Paul’s was voted Editor’s number one choice in The Daily Telegraph. His choir at Winchester College has an enviable reputation through their many broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, their international touring and a number of highly praised recordings.

Malcolm is much in demand as a choir trainer and choral and orchestral conductor, and he has directed concerts, workshops, courses and summer schools in various parts of the globe as well as working with several leading orchestras. He is also the Musical Director of the Jean Langlais Festival in France. As an organ recitalist he has played in nine European countries, the USA and Canada, and his CDs include repertoire as diverse as J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen, as well as his own music.

As a composer Malcolm receives regular commissions from both sides of the Atlantic, and he has many published works. Recently he has composed works for the Southern Cathedrals Festival, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy and an anthem for the enthronement service of the Bishop of Winchester. He has also jointly edited two books for Oxford University Press: Advent for Choirs and Epiphany to All Saints for Choirs. His compositions are widely performed and greatly enjoyed for their approachable nature and singability.

He has been an adjudicator for the BBC Young Chorister of the year competition, (he has over the years had 12 of his own choris- ters in the final and two winners, including the 2015 winner)) and for four years was a judge for the BBC Songs of Praise School Choirs competition, including chairing the judging panel for two of those competitions. He is also a frequent contributor to that programme as both interviewee and musical arranger. He has recently been a judge for the British Composer Awards.

Malcolm has served as council member of the Royal College of Organists and has been a member of the council of the Guild of Church Musicians, from whom he was recently awarded the Fellowship for his services to church music over many years. In 2009 he was awarded the FRSCM (Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music) for his work in three cathedrals, and as a composer of church music.

Katie Salomon - Harp

Katie Salomon is a professional harpist and teacher based in South-West England.

She first performed Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols in Salisbury Cathedral with the cathedral choir whilst herself a young girl chorister, and first recorded it to great acclaim in 2002. She feels particularly close to Britten’s Suite for Harp, loving it as a showpiece for the instrument, having studied as a post-graduate with Sioned Williams who in turn studied with Osian Ellis, the harpist for whom Britten wrote this Suite.

Her recordings with choir include performances of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Janacek’s Otče náš, both works which feature the harp as a principal accompaniment instrument. She has recorded with record labels including Deutsche Grammophon, Universal, Decca and Demon.

Katie is much in demand as a performer. She enjoys all styles of playing from classical through to contemporary encompassing orchestral, chamber and solo performance.

She has a reputation as a gifted accompanist to choirs in these more intimate pieces, as a soloist – as shown in her interpretation of the Suite, and a crossover artist invited to play at venues as diverse as Buckingham Palace, London Guildhall and Wembley Pavilion Arena, with other high- lights being solo stage performances for the Wimbledon Champions’ Award Ceremony, the Rugby World Cup and Royal Ascot.

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