First, an update. Mark Dirksen, son of the late composer Richard Dirksen, reminded me this weekend of another choral setting of Richard Crashaw's "Hymn of the Nativity," by American composer Lee Hoiby. There's really no excuse for me to have forgotten about the Hoiby work, because I performed it with the Cathedral Choral Society in 2001. Ah well.
All this night shrill chanticleer,
Day's proclaiming trumpeter,
Claps his wings and loudly cries,
"Mortals, mortals, wake and rise!
See a wonder Heav'n is under,
From the earth is ris'n a Sun,
Shines all night though day be done."
"Wake, O earth, wake ev'rything!
Wake and hear the joy I bring;
Wake and joy; for all this night
Heav'n and every twinkling light,
All amazing Still stand gazing.
Angels, Pow'rs and all that be,
Wake, and joy this Sun to see."
Hail, O Sun, O blessed light,
Sent into the world by night!
Let thy rays and heav'nly pow'rs
Shine in this dark soul of ours;
For most duly Thou art truly
God and man, we do confess:
Hail, O Sun of Righteousness!
William Austin (1587-1634)
What does a rooster have to do with Christmas? William Shakespeare explained it well in act I, scene one of Hamlet:
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
Shakespeare and Austin were contemporaries, so it's no surprise that they would reference the same legend in their respective works. At this year's Joy of Christmas concert, the Cathedral Choral Society performed a spectacular setting of "Chanticleer" by the late Richard Dirksen. It's a piece that sounds particularly good in the Cathedral, which is probably because it was composed to be performed there. Funny how that works.