Colin Cartwright

With Christmas In Mind

They say a change is as good as a rest, don't they? Well, that's fine, but when it comes to Christmas, how do we really feel about changing things in the time for tradition with a capital T? No matter how many times we swear we are never doing that again, inviting them again or going there, somehow we always do. We relent and put it down to tradition.

As a musician, and one who has specialised in church music for all of my working life, I know only too well the dangers of playing around with the usual Christmas celebration programme. We all have our favourite carols, and... I hear you groan... would it really be the same without Bing?

So I am all in favour of keeping up our traditions and preserving the gems which have meant so much for so long. As a composer, however, it's a different matter. I wanted to do my own thing and write something specifically for Christmas.

I knew certain things before I even got started. It would be for a choir to sing, and it would be melodic, tuneful, and hopefully engaging, perhaps looking at the story of stories in a slightly different way or approaching things from a different perspective.

So when the idea of a Christmas Triptych was suggested, I jumped at it, and the music flowed very quickly after that. The three sections represent panels of an imaginary Triptych, or altar piece, starting with the Annunciation and finishing with a nativity scene. In between, we see the three kings making their journey following the star of Bethlehem.

So what's new, you may ask. Well, in the first instance, the pieces are connected by birds. The dove is perhaps the most obvious in 'The Angel and the Dove', but then a bird of paradise in mentioned in 'Stargazers three' describing the gaudily-dressed kings. And then the final piece, 'I told the Crow', is a reworking of an old French legend in which the raven was the first to be told the good news by the angels over Bethlehem and was told to pass on the message.

An added difference is the addition of the donkey who carried the holy family and is given the news to pass on. Secondly, the music is not in the form of a carol but rather comments on the story in a more modern style, although the music is appealing in a melodic and harmonic way for contemporary audiences.

I look forward to recording this work in the near future.

A Christmas Triptych.


© 2017 Colin R. Cartwright