Gritton, Peter: Christmas Bells
SATB (with Soprano/Treble Solo or Semi-Chorus), Organ and Bass Drum
The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) wrote ‘Christmas Bells’ in 1863, at a time of personal anguish following the tragic death of his wife, and at the height of the American Civil War, which affected him deeply. In this setting for SATB, organ and bass drum, composed in 2018 when all those who lost their lives in the First World War were especially remembered, the reference to the cannon in verse 4 serves appositely for the suffering of all wars, but with the poem’s positive conclusion and defiant message also reflected in the music. The bass drum itself, which echoes distant artillery fire, may at the conductor’s discretion be positioned out of sight or relatively near the choir. In the central section, from bar 81, either a soprano or treble soloist or a small group may take the descant line, depending on their ability to hold and project the long sustained note.
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