Song of the Angels


by Alexander L'Estrange

carol for SATB choir & optional organ, with SAT semi-chorus
Mixed Voices
George Wither & Anon

Commissioned by The John Lewis Partnership Music Society for first performance at its annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Cathedral on 21 December 2015, sung by The Cavendish Singers directed by Manvinder Rattan.

First Performance
21.12.2015, John Lewis Partnership Annual Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, Westminster Cathedral, London, UK: The Cavendish Singers/Manvinder Rattan

Score 0-571-57209-X is on sale in print, or as a download.

Programme Notes

In setting words (“Thus angels sung and thus sing we...”) by 17th-century English poet and satirist George Wither, I could not help but be influenced by Orlando Gibbons’ wonderful and well-known hymn tune. At first it was just the choice of text and a little hint of his musical style that pervaded my composition; soon, however, I found it impossible not to include snippets of Gibbons’ melody, like distant echoes. Finally, I decided on a semi-chorus who seem to comment on my settings of each of the four verses, with first one line, then two, then three of Gibbons, culminating with the whole choir singing the final line together: "And in the praise of God rejoice”.

Before I wrote this Christmas carol, I contacted a number of eminent choir directors to research whether they perceived there to be a lack of suitable repertoire in any part of the “Nine lessons and carols” format.  One answer that came back strongly was a need for rousing carol-service-finales with English text, unaccompanied, and of good quality. Song of the Angels will be, I hope, an enjoyable but challenging addition to the Christmas carol repertoire for cathedrals, churches and school choirs. 

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