Good-will to men, and peace on Earth

Ev­ery Christ­mas, we in­vite a lead­ing com­poser to write a carol for our read­ers. This year’s, by Do­brinka Tabakova, has its roots in an Ox­ford chapel – and the pub

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents -

Do­brinka Tabakova in­tro­duces her new carol, writ­ten ex­clu­sively for the read­ers of BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine

When I was in­vited to write a carol for BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine, I had just com­pleted one for the Truro Cathe­dral Nine Lessons and Carols ser­vice and had a pre­vi­ous ad­vent work close to mind – my Alma Redemp­toris Mater for the choir of Mer­ton College, Ox­ford. Both of these works were con­ceived to be per­formed in a sa­cred con­text. In this new carol, I still wanted to re­tain some litur­gi­cal mys­tery, but add an­other, more play­ful el­e­ment. While re­search­ing texts for the Truro carol, I came across Ralph Dun­stan’s col­lec­tion The Cor­nish Song­book and was drawn to one of the carols there: Heav­enly sound. As well as the up­beat good wishes, it was prob­a­bly the ‘Hark, hark’ which adds a per­cus­sive punc­tu­a­tion and lifts the words, and gave me the idea of a (gen­tle) clap­ping coun­ter­point.

The im­age I had for the per­for­mance of my carol was more so­cial – a Christ­mas sing-along at home or, per­haps, a slightly ec­cen­tric group of en­thu­si­as­tic am­a­teurs singing from smart­phones in a pub (I know a few of those). The gen­eral mood is that of a con­tem­po­rary round. The words dic­tated the rhythm of the carol, which I ini­tially wrote in a stream of chang­ing time sig­na­tures. The ‘look’ of the carol didn’t quite sit with the more laid-back im­age I had of peo­ple singing it, so I thought ei­ther to dis­pense with bar lines or sim­ply not have time sig­na­tures and leave the bar lines to give some struc­ture to the melodies.

Per­for­mance notes

One of the things I’ve no­ticed when peo­ple are faced with a page of dif­fer­ent time sig­na­tures is that they make the mu­sic quite spiky and bouncy. That is not my in­ten­tion here, and I hope that the lack of time sig­na­tures will put em­pha­sis on phras­ing rather than rhythm. In some places the melodies are quite long, so there will need to be stag­ger breath­ing – where each singer from the same line takes a breath at dif­fer­ent times, creat­ing the il­lu­sion that they are all singing one con­tin­u­ous melody with no break. Those places are marked with a bro­ken slur where a nat­u­ral breath would be taken.

The clap­ping is also not com­pul­sory – in fact it would be bet­ter to just have some singers clap – and it’s al­ways the same pat­tern, which would ide­ally be learned by heart. The sec­tion from bar 77 (‘Let mor­tals catch…’) has a very low alto line, which may be wel­comed by some, but it’s fine to have those who find it too low to sing the so­prano line and add tenors to the alto line.

I do hope my carol brings you joy. As much as the ti­tle ‘Good-will to men and peace on Earth’ may be a nod to past sea­sonal tunes, I couldn’t think of a bet­ter wish now and for the fu­ture.

We hope you’ll in­clude this carol in your ser­vice or con­cert. Do pho­to­copy the mu­sic or down­load the PDF from clas­si­cal-mu­ and share! We’d love to hear your per­for­mances, so send any au­dio files or links to mu­[email protected]­si­cal-mu­ and we’ll post to our web­site and so­cial feeds. For more about Do­brinka Tabakova, visit do­

‘‘ I wanted to re­tain some litur­gi­cal mys­tery, but add an­other, more play­ful el­e­ment

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.