Vol I No. 7
PBS News & Events

Festival of Lessons and Carols for Christmas

by William J. Martin

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmastide

The Service opens with the Carol:

Once in Royal David’s City…

Words: Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander (1818–1895); Hymns for Little Children, London, 1848
Music: Irby, Henry John Gauntlett (1805–1876), arr Jeffrey Smith (born 1960) & David Willcocks (1919–2015)

The First Lesson Genesis 3:8–15

Carol: This is the truth sent from above

Carol:   Words: English Traditional, “Melody and part of the text from Mr. W. Jenkins, Kings Pyon, Herefordshire.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Music: The Truth from Above, English Folk Carol, arr by Rodney Lister (born 1951)

The Second Lesson Genesis 22:15–18

Carol: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

Words: Cornish Traditional from Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, alt, William Sandys, 1833                                                                         Music: This have I done for my true love, op 34, no 1; Gustav Holst (1874–1934)

The Third Lesson Isaiah 9:2, 6–7

Motet: Hodie Christus natus est: Noë, Hodie Salvator

Words: Antiphon on the Magnificat, 2nd Vespers of Christmas Day
Music: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621), no 13 in Cantiones Sacræ, 1619, SwWV 163

Carol: Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici.

Words: French noël of uncertain origin, tr John Herbert Uhrig (1943–2013)
Music: Modern form of a 15th century French noël melody, arr (1986) by Stephen Jackson (born 1951)

The Fourth Lesson Micah 5:2–4

Carol: As I walked down the road at set of sun,

Words: Margaret Rose (1936–1958)
Music: The Little Road to Bethlehem, Michael Head (1900–1976)

Hymn:O Little town of Bethlehem

                                         Words: cf Luke 2: 11–12; (1868) Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)                                                                                                       Music: Forest Green, English melody; adapt & harm Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958); arr Thomas Armstrong (1898–1994)

The Fifth Lesson Luke 1:26–35, 38

Carol: Alleluia. There is no rose of such virtue, as is the rose that bare Jesu. Alleluia.

Words: Anon, 15th century English, Music: Elizabeth Maconchy (1907–1994)

The Sixth Lesson:  Matthew 1:18–23

Motet: O magnum mysterium

Words:Main part of a Responsory for Christmas Matins, altered by the composer.                                                                                                          Music, O magnum misterium, op 53, Pierre Villette (1926–1998)

The Seventh Lesson:  Luke 2:8–16

Motet: Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, quia venit lumen tuum

Words: Isaiah 60:1–2; Music: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c1524–1594); in Motettorum liber tertius, 5–8vv, no 28, Venice, 1575

The Eighth Lesson:  Matthew 2:1–11

Carol: Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child, by, by, lully, lullay.

Words: Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, 15th century; Music: Lully, lulla, lullay, Philip W. J. Stopford (born 1977)

Carol: Wassail, sing we, in worship of Christ’s nativity.

Words: English, 16th century; Music: Wassail Carol, op 26, no 1, William Mathias (1934–1992)

The Ninth Lesson:    John 1:1–14

Hymn Corde natus ex parentis (Of the Father’s love begotten…)

Words: Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348–410?); tr John Mason Neale (1818–1866) & Henry Williams Baker (1821–1877),                     alt Music: Divinum mysterium, Sanctus trope, 11th cent; adapt Piæ Cantiones, 1582; arr David Willcocks (1919–2015)

Retiring Procession: Adeste fideles læti triumphantes (O come all ye faithful)

Words:John Francis Wade (1711–1786), tr Frederick Oakley (1802–1880);                                                                                                                        Music, Hymnal for Use in the English Church, 1852 John Francis Wade, as arr. in The English Hymnal (1906); arr David Willcocks (1919–2015)

Postlude Rhapsodie sur des noëls, [Dix Pièces, no 6] Eugène Gigout (1844–1925)

Recorded on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2021

The Church of the Advent, Boston.

The Rev’d Douglas Anderson, Officiant
The Choir of The Church of the Advent

Mark Dwyer, Organist & Choirmaster
Andrew Scanlon, Associate Organist & Choirmaster

A Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent Sunday

is also still available

To hear the audio click here

Advent music and readings


Aspiciens a longe, (The First Responsory at Matins of Advent Sunday

set by: Robert Lehman (b.1960)

The Hymn: Veni Redemptor gentium, Come thou Redeemer of the Earth…

Original text by Ambrose of Milan (c340–397), tr John Mason Neale (1818–1866) Music: Puer nobis nascitur, European melody, adapted by Michael Prætorius (1571–1621)

Carol: This is the truth sent from above,

Words: English Traditional, “Melody and part of the text from Mr. W. Jenkins, Kings Pyon, Herefordshire.” Music: The Truth from Above, English Folk Carol, adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

Lesson Genesis 3:1–15

Carol, Adam lay ybounden,…

Words: London: British Library Sloan MS 2593, 15th c.  Music: Matthew Martin (born 1976)

Lesson Isaiah: 6:1–8

Carol, ‘Twas in the year that King Uzziah died,

Words: Jesaia, dem Propheten, das geschah, Martin Luther, tr George R. Woodward (1848–1934;) cf Isaiah 6:1–4 Music: Larry Palmer (b. 1938)

Lesson Isaiah 40: 1–11

Motet, Vigilate, nescitis enim quando dominus domus veniat,  (Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh,…)   Mark 13:35–37

William Byrd (1540–1623); in Liber primus sacrarum cantionum quinque vocum, Thomas East Press, London, 1589

Hymn: Verbum supernum prodiens (O Heavenly Word…) 

Latin, c 7th cent; tr Hymnal 1982, after John Mason Neale (1818–1866)
O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf, melody from Rheinfelsisches Deutsches Catholisches Gesangbuch, 1666;
harm Orgelbuch Zum Gesangbuch Der Evangelisch-Reformierten Kirchen Der Deutschsprachigen Schweiz, 1926

Lesson Micah 5:2–4

Carol , Alleluia. There is no rose of such virtue,

Words:  Anon, 15th cent , Music: Colin Britt (b.1985)

Lesson Isaiah 7:10–15

Motet, Ave Maria,

Words: cf Luke 1:28, Luke 1:41, Music: Ave Maria à 8, Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611) Motecta, 1572

Hymn, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Words: Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608), tr Catherine Winkworth (1827–1878), Music: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, melody Philipp Nicolai, harm Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

Lesson Luke 1:5–25

Carol, The angel Gabriel from heaven came

Words: Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen, tr Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924), Music: Gabriel’s Message, 18th century (?) Basque, arr David Valentine Willcocks (1919–2015)

Lesson Luke 1:26–38

Anthem, Jesu, Rex admirabilis et triumphator nobilis, (O Jesus, King most wonderful! Thou conqueror renowned!…)

Words: Office Hymn at Matins on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus; attrib St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), tr Edward Caswall (1814–1878), Music: Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962)

Vesper Responsary Judah and Jerusalem, fear not, nor be dismayed

Words: Judea et Jerusalem, Responsory at the Vigil of the Nativity Office of Lauds Music: Robert Lehman

Hymn, Lo! he comes, with clouds descending

Words: John Cennick, 1752; as altered by Charles Wesley, 1758; then altered by Martin Madan, 1760, Music: Helmsley, melody Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778); harm Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

Organ Postlude Toccata on ‘Veni Emmanuel’ Adolphus Hailstork (born 1941)

The Choir of the Church of the Advent, Boston,  

under the Direction of Mark Dwyer, D.Mus.

assisted by Andrew Scanlon, FAGO, Associate Organist & Choirmaster

Officiant, The Rev’d Douglas Anderson, Rector of the Church of the Advent