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When I was approached by the Hibiscus Coast Singers with a query about Christmas choral cycles, I had to admit that while I had written a considerable amount of Christmas choral music, none of the existing cycles I had written suited their purpose. Previous cycles were either the wrong voicing or had unsuitable accompaniment resources. I therefore offered to create something new for them for existing pieces, many of which were for treble voices and which could be easily re-written for mixed-voice choir. Ultimately the temptation to write some new music was too great, and the cycle ended up being three existing pieces (numbers 1, 5, and 7), and four new ones.
In selecting texts I wanted each to focus on a specific aspect of Christmas. The piece present a number of significant events which surround or lead up to the birth of Christ - the appearance of the angels foretelling Christ's imminent birth, the shepherds, the wise men and so on.
The first text set the scene - the shepherds are watching their sheep and the landscape is peaceful. Soon 'wondrous music' is heard and the whole Christmas story is encapsulated in the remainder of the text. The second text focuses on the angels - here described as 'singing sweetly'. The third text is a new setting of the well-known choral text 'While shepherds watched their flocks by night'. The fourth text tells of the wise men and their long trek to find the Christ-child. Stars, and one particular star, are integral to the story of Christmas, and the fifth text tells of a 'weary waiting world' suddenly awakened by joyous bells and stars 'dancing on the snow'. The sixth text is from the Afro-American tradition of spirituals and tells in simple language of Mary rocking the cradle of the new-born baby. The final text tells of our wonder at the story of Christmas - the 'tender joy', 'the mystery of love' and the 'sweetness of the dream'.
01 Dec 2007: Performed by Hibiscus Coast Singers, conducted by Anita Banbury at Whangaparaoa College auditorium
28 Nov 2010: Performed by the South Auckland Choral Society, conducted by David Hamilton at the Crossroads Church in Papakura