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Christmas is Coming


A collection of carols for Advent and Christmas composed, arranged and edited by Nicholas Temperley

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Both a dedicated carol singer and an authority on the history of English music, Nicholas Temperley here offers a unique book of 37 carols dating from the fifteenth century to the present.

For over fifty years he has sung, edited and composed carols each Christmas, and in Christmas is Coming the fruit of his enthusiasm is combined with his wealth of knowledge to produce an outstanding and original new collection. As John Rutter observes in his Foreword, the book does not pointlessly duplicate what can be found in many other carol books, but has a personality and purpose of its own.

Nicholas Temperley is also author of The Music of the English Parish Church, co-editor with Sally Drage of the definitive Musica Britannica anthology of eighteenth-century psalmody and gallery music, and distinguished contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Born in Beaconsfield, England, he studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois.

Twenty-two fresh and practical arrangements include carols from Austria, France, Germany, Mexico, Poland and the USA, alongside music both rare and familiar from the rich heritage of the English carol tradition. As well as eight of his personal favourites, from J. S. Bach to Charles Ives, the author includes seven new compositions of his own, settings of medieval and traditional texts that reveal his skill as a choral composer whose command of style ranges from the humorous to the profound.

In addition to sample programmes and translations, there are invaluable notes on the performance and history of individual items, plus an historical summary of the genre as a whole: everything in fact to make Christmas is Coming an indispensable companion for singers who wish to enrich the seasonal repertoire for concerts, churches and traditional Yuletide carolling.


Index of First Lines

Optional parts are in parentheses. Solo parts are lower case.

All hail to the days SATB
Angels we have heard on high SSAAT(T)B
Arise and hail the sacred day SATB
As I lay upon a night SATB
Away in a manger SATB
Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella SATB
Christ the King is born SSATB(B)
Christmas is coming (tb) SSATB
Dame, get up and bake your pies SSATB
Dans la nuit et sous la neige SATB
En nombre del cielo SSATB
God rest you merry, gentlemen SATB
Good King Wenceslas sb SATB
Hark! the herald angels sing SS(AT)B
Here we come a-wassailing (st) SSA(A)TB
I saw three ships SSATB
I sing of a maiden (t) SATB
I wonder as I wander (s) SATB
Il est né, le divin enfant (S)SATB
Little star of Bethlehem SSATB
Lully, lulla SATB
Masters in this hall (ab) SSATB
Noël nouvelet S(S)ATB
Nova, nova t (SA)TB
Nowell sing we at (S)ATB
O Bethlehem SSATB
O Jesulein süss SATB
O mortal man SATB
Out of your sleep a SATB
Past three o’clock SATB
People, look east SATB
Rockabye Jesus SSATB
Stille Nacht (sst) SSATB
Wassail, wassail (ssatb) SATB
Welcome Yule SSATB
Whence is that goodly fragrance SSATB
Yesterday I saw from far away tbb SAT(B)B


Here is a Christmas carol collection which is fresh, delightful, and above all practical for even the most modest mixed group of carollers. There is always a temptation for us composers and arrangers to turn a humble carol into an elaborate choral symphony, which is fine if you have King’s College Choir at your disposal, not much use if you have a small group of singers who aim to give simple pleasure rather than to present what to some ears might in any case be a gilded lily.

Over every composer and arranger’s desk should hang the advice ‘keep your carols simple’, and Nicholas Temperley has managed to do exactly that, allowing the true spirit of Christmas to shine through in every item of this varied and imaginative collection. There are a few traditional favourites in their familiar harmonisations (always handy to have in any carol book); then, forming the largest part of the book, a truly international selection of folk carols refreshingly and aptly arranged; and, a welcome addition, seven lovely original carols composed by the Editor, which would grace any carol recital in church, cathedral, school or home.

The art of the anthologist includes knowing what to select, and what to leave out. This collection does not pointlessly duplicate what can be found in many other carol books: it has a personality and purpose of its own, which the Editor explains in his preface. Having started life as a private resource for a group of friends, it is now being made available for us all to use and enjoy in our seasonal celebrations. The Editor deserves our warmest thanks.


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