Matthew 2: 1-12
The wise men are led by the star to Jesus.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
The wise men are led by the star to Jesus.
- Coventry Carol, TheAllain, Richard
SATB with divisi. A gently rocking motif sets the tone for this original setting of a very well-known theme.
- In the bleak midwinterAllain, Richard
SATB unaccompanied. Written for Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge.
- Carol of Mary, AArcher, Malcolm
SATB (with divisions) and organ. Setting his own text, Archer's new carol is specifically dedicated to Mary. 'Ave Maria's are interspersed between flowing melodies that rock gently in 3/4 time, while the central section offers brief introspection in the tonic minor. Accompanied by a supportive organ part throughout, the voices finish with a jazzy chord progression, leaving behind a warm, Christmassy feeling.
- Coventry Carol, TheArcher, Malcolm
This welcome original setting of the much-loved 15th-century Coventry carol text features a compelling interplay between choir and organ and a contrast of full and a cappella textures. Archer fully exploits the text's dramatic potential and has created a pleasing and useful addition to the carol repertory.
- In the deep of wintertimeArcher, Malcolm
SATB and organ or piano. With words by the composer, Archer's carol joyfully describes the Nativity story with a lilting melody in 3/4 time. The voices culminate in a powerful unison statement with an angelic descant, all the while underpinned by flowing keyboard accompaniment.
- Hail, heavenly beamBednall, David
SATB unaccompanied. Hail, heavenly beam is a powerful and joyful setting of a 9th-century advent prayer. Coloured by rich harmonies and tonal shifts, the piece opens briskly before propelling itself towards a rousing conclusion characterised by faster, more exuberant melodic lines and expressive melismas.
- Carol for Our Times, ABlackwell, David
SATB (with S. solo) unaccompanied. This thought-provoking carol takes up the topical theme of the plight of refugees, drawing parallels with the stories and reception of Christ's birth. The text, by the composer, alludes to familiar lines from the Coventry Carol, rooting the piece in tradition while encouraging us to consider our present. The verses feature contrasting textures and changing metres, while a soft, reflective refrain stands steadfastly in triple metre.
- His praises we'll singBlackwell
SATB (with divisions) and piano. This is a high energy, foot-tap inducing setting of a well-known text. The bluesy melodies, jazzy harmonies, and swung rhythms give the piece a gospel feel and fill you with the infectious urge to boogie along to the music. Powerful voices and enthusiasm required.
- Boy is born in Bethlehem, ABullard, Alan
SATB and piano or organ. This lively carol is fast and fleeting, propelled forward by a constantly shifting metre and a characterful accompaniment. It may be sung in English or to the Latin text taken from Piae Cantiones. It is a captivating carol, and a rewarding sing.
- Glory to the Christ childBullard, Alan
SATB unaccompanied. This exuberant carol is full of contrast and seasonal cheer. It has a sprightly refrain, in which unison passages burst into jubilant harmony.
- Star of WonderBullard, Alan
SATB and piano or organ. Ideal for a carol service or concert, this piece follows the three Kings on their journey to the birth of Jesus and is characterised by its alternation of major and minor modes.
- EpiphanyChilcott, Bob
SATB & organ. This charming carol tells of the joy and wonder of the star of Bethlehem and features Chilcott's hallmark tuneful melodies and carefully chosen harmonic colours. Epiphany takes for its text a translation of two verses by French hymn-writer Charles Coffin, augmented by a newly written verse by Chilcott's long-time collaborator Charles Bennett. The result is a carol which is both narrative and reflective, with a perfect mix of traditional and modern.
- For him all stars have shoneChilcott, Bob
SATB & piano. The music is shared at first between the upper-voice and mixed choirs before they come together, the one a delicious counter-melody to the other. The music is quite simply beautiful, in keeping with the words, and possesses that elusive quality of seeming to have always existed.
- Mid-WinterChilcott, Bob
SATB & organ or piano. An easy and original setting of the well-known Christina Rossetti text.
- Nine Gifts, TheChilcott, Bob
SATB and organ. This stirring Christmas song, setting a text by Kevin Crossley-Holland, combines bouncing rhythms, expressive Chilcott harmonies, and vibrant word-painting to depict the gifts we bring to Christ's stable.
- Three Kings, TheChilcott, Bob
SSA and piano. In The Three Kings Chilcott sets verses from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Christmas poem telling the story of the three kings' journey to Bethlehem. A sense of travel is created by the stately 6/8 time signature, and syncopations bring an air of excitement and wonder to the tale.
- Three Kings, TheCornelius, Peter
SATB with divisi & baritone solo. A beautiful and atmospheric setting including the chorale melody 'Wie schoen leuchtet der morgenstern'.
- In the bleak midwinterDarke, Harold
SATB & organ, with soprano and tenor solos. Possibly the UK's favourite Christmas carol.
- In the bleak midwinterGjeilo, Ola
SATB unaccompanied. A delightfully sonorous re-working of Gustav Holst's familiar melody.
- O magnum mysteriumGjeilo, Ola
SSAATTBB with organ and optional violin. Also known as 'Serenity', this is a luscious piece guaranteed to induce restful feelings in the listener.
- What child is this?Hewitt-Jones, Thomas
SATB & organ. This is a rich and expressive setting of William Chatterton Dix's famous words. Containing a delicate soprano solo, lush choral writing, and a tender recurring melody, What child is this? will make an enchanting feature in any Christmas service.
- Here is the little doorHowells, Herbert
SATB unaccompanied. By turns delicate and powerful, this is an accessible piece by Howells which puts the singers in the Wise Men's shoes.
- Magi, TheJackson, Gabriel
SATB & organ. Texts from Matthew 2 and W.B. Yeats are set in an original and effective style, with powerful voice parts and a free organ accompaniment. Published in OUP's 'The Ivy and the Holly' (2008)
- Nowell sing weJackson, Gabriel
SATB unaccompanied This is a vibrant and rhythmic Christmas carol based on an anonymous 15th-century text. The modal feel and lively rhythms lend this carol a medieval character which will delight singers and audiences alike. An enjoyable option for any SATB choir at Christmas.
- NativityKendall, Hannah
Text from John Ch. 8 and John Donne's 'Nativity', this setting for SSA Solos and SSA Choir has a luminous quality that conveys the mystery of the Incarnation.
- Epiphany CarolL'Estrange, Alexander
SATB unaccompanied. A stirring, accessible original carol with words by Joanna Forbes L-??Estrange and music by Alexander L-??Estrange. Suitable for mixed-voice choirs of all levels of experience
- O magnum mysteriumLauridsen, Morten
For centuries, composers have been inspired by the beautiful O Magnum Mysterium text depicting the birth of the new-born King among the lowly animals and shepherds. This setting for unaccompanied SATB divisi by Morten Lauridsen, one of America-??s most loved and most performed living choral composers, is rich in colour, deeply spiritual and intensely moving.
- Coventry Carol, TheLeighton, Kenneth
Soprano solo & SATB unaccompanied
- Nowell, Nowell, NowellMaconchy, Elizabeth
- Videntes StellamMason, Douglas
For SATB choir, words in Latin from Matthew 2.10-11
- Babe is born, AMathias, William
SATB & organ. A joyful summation of the Christmas story. Typical Mathias!
- Angels' Carol, TheMatthews, Colin
SATB Unaccompanied. A beautiful setting of Sarah Teasdale's Christmas Carol.
- Brightest Star, TheMcDowall, Cecilia
SSATB unaccompanied. This is an evocative setting of a powerful text by Sean Street describing the call for assistance made by the occupied Channel Islands in 1944 and the response of the Red Cross ship, the Vega, which came to their aid, drawing parallels between this story and the light and hope of the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany.
- Mary's CarolPott, Francis
SATB unaccompanied. With a text by Peter Dale (b. 1938) this piece, with it's floating soprano solo, explores the Magi's gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Published in OUP's 'The Ivy & the Holly' (2008)
- Videntes stellamPoulenc, Francis
SATB unaccompanied. One of Poulenc's four Christmas motets, typically chromatic harmonies, and extremely effective.
- This endris nightQuartel, Sarah
For SATB unaccompanied or with optional handbells (or percussion, or organ). Sarah Quartel brings a fresh take on a familiar fifteenth-century text in this enchanting carol. The dialogue between Mary and the infant Jesus is woven to a beguiling folk-like melody, in 6/8 metre, through each of the voice parts, with each verse ending in the lilting refrain 'Lully, by by, lullay'. The carol may be sung unaccompanied, though for added sparkle there is an optional part for handbells (or percussion or organ).
- All bells in ParadiseRutter, John
SATB and organ. This gentle yet uplifting carol was first performed during the 2012 King's College, Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Rutter's gift for melody is in evidence throughout the work, with a sense of hushed awe leading to moments of glorious optimism.
- Candelight Carol, TheRutter, John
SATBarB & organ. Words and music by John Rutter, this is a thoughtful and atmospheric carol.
- Carol of the Children, TheRutter, John
Unison voices (with optional second part) & piano or organ.
- Carol of the MagiRutter, John
SATB, optional baritone solo, cello, & organ. This is a tuneful epiphany carol, setting a text by the composer. Underpinned by a beautiful cello solo, the vocal lines are rich and flowing, and the organ supports the choir with warm harmonies.
- Christmas LullabyRutter, John
SATB and organ. The haunting melody of the verses and the reflective refrain of 'Ave Maria' have made this an immensely popular carol.
- Christmas NightRutter, John
SATB & organ. Lovely, restful and atmospheric setting of a well-known theme from Arbeau's Orchesographie.
- Joseph's CarolRutter, John
Baritone solo, SAATB, and organ or piano or small orchestra. Dedicated to the Oxford Vaccine Team and premiered by Sir Bryn Terfel, The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Choir of Merton College in a special tribute concert, Joseph's Carol sets words by the composer that recount the Christmas story from the perspective of Joseph. The two expressive verses are taken by the solo baritone, with the chorus performing a macaronic refrain infused with expectancy and wonder, as well as taking on the role of the angels in a soft accompaniment to the closing words of the second solo verse.
- In the bleak midwinterStopford, Philip
SATB & organ. Echoing the setting of Gustav Holst, here is a new tune to some very familiar words with a poignant, beautiful harmonization.
- Lully, Lulla, LullayStopford, Philip
The words from the 15th century are newly composed into a lilting carol-anthem of great simplicity, and in just four parts. An optional fifth part enters towards the end with a glorious descant. This is a gem, and choirs will love it!
- Waiting Sky, TheTarney, Oliver
An evocative text by Lucia Quinault depicts a rural winter scene, and is skilfully set to music by Oliver Tarney to create a lucidly reflective piece. There is a sense in both the text and the music of waiting for the 'shining star' and this is perfect as a reflective carol for Advent, anticipating the wonder of the birth of Christ.
- Christ-child, TheTodd, Will
SATB & piano. 'The Christ-child' is an example of Todd's writing at its most beautiful. Setting words by G.K. Chesterton, slow-moving piano chords underpin sublime four-part choral textures.
- On yesternight I saw a sightTreseder, Gareth
SSAA a cappella. Composer's note: "On yesternight I saw a sight was set as a means of thanking Jo Tomlinson for promoting and recording my music with the excellent choristers of Farnham Youth Choir. Knowing that the group's ethos is to memorise the music, I intentionally set the text in a strophic fashion in which the odd-numbered verses act as a unison chorus that later forms a round. The text is inherently rhythmical and joyous. To my mind, it could only be a 12/8 jig reminiscent of a traditional folk dance. For the work's final exclamation, I originally added "Noel" to the text. However, singing the final letter of this word while singing a top A is unnecessarily difficult. Thus I instead set the medieval Latin term, "Noe". By happy coincidence, this rhymes with the last two words of the sixth verse. The final chorus - harmonised for the first time and accompanied by a descant" hurriedly asks for God's grace in these ever uncertain times so that he may "be born in us today"." - Gareth Treseder -
- O magnum mysteriumVictoria, Tomas Luis de
SATB with divisi. A fine four-part motet for the Christmas season.
- O magnum mysteriumVillette, Pierre
SATB unaccompanied. A tender motet which clearly demonstrates the influence of Villette's teacher, Maurice Duruflé.
- Bethlehem DownWarlock, Peter
SATB unaccompanied. Relatively straightforward, yet not without its banana skins in terms of intonation. Lovely!
- O mercy divineWeir, Judith
Looking for something different? This piece, for SATB and cello, was commissioned by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, to mark the centenary of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols'. First performance on 24th December 2018 at King's College Chapel, given by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
- Magi's Dream, TheWhitbourn, James
SATB & organ. Jesus is saved from the hands of Herod.
- How far is it to BethlehemWilberg, Mack
SATB, 2 flutes, and harp or piano. A charming arrangement featuring flutes, this is perfect for even the smallest of choirs.
- Coventry Carol, TheWilliams, Roderick
Intricate counterpoint and a continuo-style bassline bring a medieval flavour to Williams' arrangement of this much-loved carol. The gentle vocal lines build in texture throughout, with optional support from the accompaniment. Originally published in The Oxford Book of Flexible Carols, it is also available in a version for two-part and optional accompaniment.