SATB/SA Children's Choir (or use SA subgroup of
main choir) / brass quintet Sacred texts in English by Thomas Merton Difficulty rating (1-5): 2.5 Available directly
Commissioned by the Nebraska Choral Arts Society,
premiered December 2007, directed by Matthew Harden
Winter’s Night Carol
was commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the
Nebraska Choral Arts Society based in Omaha, Nebraska. This is a
topnotch community choral organization that consists of eight
choirs, from youth through adult.
In fact, part of the
commission requirements from the group was that this holiday
piece would be for SATB, brass, and the mid to advanced
children’s choirs. With theses forces in mind, I felt I should
seek out a text whose content would naturally welcome the
voice of a child. Fortunately it wasn’t long before I happily
stumbled across two poems written by the great Thomas Merton
during WWII- and I felt that the few essential lines which could
be voiced by the children in these two combined poems would be a
wonderfully natural way to incorporate the children’s choirs
into the piece.
One thing I have been trying
to do in holiday pieces is find texts which are not full of
clichés- so even if they do speak of the typical manger scene
and other such basic stories so well known to us all, these more
artistic texts find a new way to relate it to us and keep it
fresh. I also felt that the Merton texts not only gave me the
freedom to create magically intimate wintertime Christmas
moments but also boldly state in an excited way the announcing
of the arrival of the three Wise Men, with the brass blazing the
way. In other words, my goal all along was to write a highly
artistic piece with a very special text which would still also
be enjoyed on first hearing by any and all in the audience.
My experience in Omaha
working with director Matt Harden and everyone involved was
wonderful. Matt and I continue to work closely together on
further projects with his top level choir at The University of
The Winter’s Night
When, in the dark, the frost cracks on the
The children awaken, and whisper.
One says the moonlight grated like a skate
Across the freezing river.
Another hears the starlight breaking like a knifeblade
Upon the silent, steelbright pond.
They say the trees are stiller than the frozen water
From waiting for a shouting light, a heavenly message...
Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.
The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.
God's glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom's born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.
And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;
While we unnumbered children of the centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men's golden jars.