Wellcome, all Wonders in One Sight! (1990)

For SATB Chorus a cappella   4 minutes

In 1990, South Wilts A Cappella asked for a carol to perform in Salisbury Cathedral.  Searching for suitable texts in an anthology of metaphysical poets, I came across An Hymne of the Nativity, sung as by the Shepheards by Richard Crashaw (ca. 1613-1649).  The poem is several pages long, shared between two shepherds, Thyrsis and Tityrus, and a chorus of more shepherds.  I was particularly taken with the first Full Chorus verse, with which my carol starts.  Each line contains a paradoxical opposition – eternity shut in a span, summer in winter, day in night – conveying the startling miracle of this event with remarkable economy.  This verse is not quite a refrain, but its first phrase returns in the middle of the carol, and the complete verse is repeated at The End.  The whole carol is supported by a rocking figure, in which the accompanying voices sing variously “Wellcome, wonder,” “Wellcome blessed wonder” and “Wellcome heaven blessed wonder,” suggesting the hushed awe of the shepherds – or perhaps the gentle beating of angelic wings.

Text: An Hymne of the Nativity, sung as by the shepheards by Richard Crashaw

First performance: 20th December 1990, Salisbury Cathedral.