Wycliffe Carols

Programme Note

The Wycliffe Carols tell the story of the nativity by drawing upon very familiar texts from Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah. Instead of the King James Version of the Bible, however, the carols set the Wycliffe Version of 1395, the oldest complete translation of the Bible into English. This brings about some striking changes to the text; ‘Every valley shall be exalted’, for example, becomes in this rendering ‘Each valley shall be enhanced’. I hope the effect is to defamiliarise these very well-known texts, and through that defamiliarisation to render them freshly vivid and mysterious.

‘Nonsuch premiered a genuinely progressive carol composition [The Watches of the Night], by Edward Nesbit, whose ear-catching sequences of parallel intervals seemed to yield difference tones; a pioneering example of Yuletide spectralism.’ (Judith Weir, www.judithwier.com, 8th December 2014)

‘In To Plain Ways is led by a strangely-leading almost folk-like melody (but incorporating much structural ornamentation) accompanied by a hypnotically repeating harmonic cell.’ (Judith Weir, www.judithwier.com, 14th October 2015)

In To Plain Ways was the winner of New Music for St. Paul’s 2015.

Year: 2021
Duration: 12′
Instrumentation: SATB

1 – Be Ye Comforted
2 – In To Plain Ways
3 – Thy Light is Comun
4 – The Shining of thy Rising
5 – Forsooth a Little Child
6 – The Watches of the Night
7 – Make Joy Withoutforth Enough



20th December 2022
The Choir of St. Paul’s Knightsbridge, Joseph Fort (Conductor)
St. Paul’s Knightsbridge (Make Joy Withoutforth Enough)

6th November 2015
St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, Andrew Carwood (Conductor)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (In To Plain Ways)

13th October 2015
Singers from St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, Peter Holder (Conductor)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (In To Plain Ways)

6th December 2014
Nonsuch Singers, Tom Bullard (Conductor)
St. James’s, Piccadilly (The Watches of the Night)