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And There Was Light | Christmas Oratorio

And There Was Light is a fresh, invigorating and dramatic re-telling of the Christmas story for boys and girls choirs, chamber ensemble and narrator. The music is drawn from traditional Christmas carols, with two new carols with words by Sue Curtis, framed by the Christmas narrative from the King James’ Bible. The piece was commissioned by Shean Bowers and the Boys’ and Girls’ choirs of Bath Abbey for the Bath Abbey Music Society Christmas Carol Concert 2016.

The inspiration for And There Was Light comes from a lifetime of celebrating Christmas within the great tradition of Anglican choral music. For choristers, December is the most engaging and busy month of the year. At St Paul’s Cathedral, we boarded all the way through to Christmas Day, and sang 3 full services before journeying home down the M4 for a well deserved break.  The experience of singing such beautiful Christmas music for a concentrated period became a welcomed yearly ritual, which warmed the spirit with joy and wonder.

And There Was Light | a Christmas Oratorio

The Golden Eggs – Fireside Carols

In 2009 I collaborated with Beth Porter (The Availables / The Bookshop Band / Eliza Carthy Band) on a folk Christmas album called Fireside Carols. After spending time creatively exploring, developing and airing ideas we brought together a brilliant group of musicians up at Sue Curtis’s house to make the record. This process focused my desire to create a large-scale choral Christmas piece. Elements of the original arrangements from Fireside Carols are woven into And There Was Light.

Working with Shean Bowers and Bath Abbey

The premiere of The Cool Web : A Robert Graves Oratorio was the beginning of a strong creative partnership. Since then, Shean Bowers has commissioned Sue Curtis and I to compose two song cycles, Extraordinary Creatures and Music of the Spheres for BAMS Concerts in 2015/16, followed by And There Was Light.  We are incredibly grateful to Shean for trusting us to develop this new work for performance during  such an important time in the church’s calendar.

A note from the composer

And There Was Light is written for narrator, choir and chamber ensemble, intertwining music from Christmas carols with text from the King James’ Bible to create a fresh and dramatic Christmas ceremony.

Beginning with the Creation, the journey takes the audience from advent, the Nativity, the visits of the Shepherds and Wise Men, to Herod’s rage, the Slaughter of the Innocents and Simeon’s last breath, ending full circle back at the beginning with the Word.

This carefully selected narrative, constructed with Sue Curtis, provides the opportunity to include some of my favourite traditional Christmas Carols.  There are also two beautiful new sets of lyrics by Sue Curtis (Natvity and Winter Lamb) and a new setting of the Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis from Evening Prayer).

Ensemble

The piece is written for

  • Narrator
  • 3 part Treble choir
  • 3 Soprano choir
  • two Trumpets
  • Percussion
  • Harp
  • Piano
  • String Quintet

And There Was Light World Premiere

And There Was Light was premiered by Shean Bowers and the choirs of Bath Abbey, Tim Delap (narrator) and the Bristol Ensemble on December 10th 2016 at the Bath Abbey Music Society Carol Service.

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