The Pembroke Carol

Written by Anna Lapwood and The Pembroke College Girls’ Choir
For mixed choir (SATB a cappella)
Text: English (Sara Teasdale)
Duration: 2 minutes
Difficulty: 2/5

“Following a couple of experiments with whole group composition, we decided to do a full weekend of Girls’ Choir composition a few years ago. Most of the pieces we wrote were arrangements of pre-existing carols, but we all agreed it would be nice to write something from scratch too. I brought a couple of different poems along, and the girls chose Sara Teasdale’s Christmas Carol. I’m always surprised at how quickly they agree on certain things – in this case, it only took them about 10 minutes to decide that it should be in compound time and have modal inflections once we had read through the text together. We started by writing a melody, and then set about harmonising it in different ways to reflect the character of each verse. In the composition sessions the girls sang the soprano parts whilst I played the rest on the piano, and we discovered it actually works equally well in this form, but it was a very exciting moment when we put everything together with the Chapel Choir for the first time. They finished writing it around the time of the BBC Singers Carol Competition, and so I sent it to the producer of the BBC Singers, Jonathan Manners, to see what he thought. He ended up programming it for the Carol Competition Breakfast programme – all the girl choristers were extremely excited when they realised that their piece was going to receive its premiere from the BBC Singers!” – Anna Lapwood

The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs—
They had not any gold.

The wise men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

Sara Teasdale