Quelle est cette odeur agréable?
(What is this pleasant fragrance?)

SSA a cappella

Since this is such an utterly gorgeous melody the goal was to set it as simply as possible and let it soar gently on its own. The text is from the mid-1600's but the now familiar tune which eventually attached to it seems to have been all the rage around 1710- 1720 both in England and France accompanying various other texts. It appears in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera as the drinking song Fill ev'ry glass! Unlike German or English, stress in singing French phrases is less a matter of syllabic stress than a matter of linear stress. The French singing line is “end loaded”, with the horizontal movement being paramount. In melodies such as this one, it is best to make the phrase grow ever so subtly in dynamic to the last or second-to-last syllable of the phrase. In the first phrase here, for example, such growth would crest in the second '[a]' of agreable. The effect of such supple, organic line as applied to this carol will also reflect the gentle images of the senses being overwhelmed by the ethereal smells and sights of the Christmas miracle.



What is this pleasant fragrance, shepherds,
which rouses all our senses?
Nothing, not flowers in the midst of spring
yield anything such as this!

Yet what is this dazzling light
which comes in the night to stun our eyes?
Not even the morning star in its ascent 
was ever so radiant!

In Bethlehem, in a cradle,
comes a Savior, born to you.
Go, may nothing delay you
in the adoration of our redeemer.


















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