This cycle of pieces was written for South Auckland Choral Society’s end of year concert which I was invited to conduct in 2007. The original request was for a concert of New Zealand music, but beyond a number of short Christmas pieces there is little in the way to extended seasonal music by New Zealand composers. I offered to write something new for the concert, to complement Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.
Having already written a Christmas cycle for a similar choir the same year, I was keen to move away from texts about the trappings of the Christmas story. I finally found a number of texts about children and their relationship to Christmas. Surrounding these texts are some more traditionally focussed texts. Inevitably it was hard to avoid poetry with images of snow, bells and stars.
The first poem is a traditional Afro-American spiritual text and sets the scene by telling of Mary and her baby. In order to give the men of the choir something worthwhile to do in the rehearsal (white the women worked on the Britten), I decided to feature them in several pieces. The second text, “Children’s Song of the Nativity”, is really a series of questions such as a young child might ask: “What will we see? Can we go in?” The third text, for unaccompanied men’s voices, is the despairing pleas of a young man who desperately wants to be something significant in the nativity play this year. The fourth text sets Eleanor Farjeon’s “Advice to a Child” – some suggestions as to ways in which Christmas might be prepared for.