As featured on the ORA Advent Calendar 2017
In common with many composers, I have often found the text for a new carol in the rich store of early English poetry, so much of which was inspired by the Christmas story and written with musical setting in mind – though in many cases the music is lost. Suzi’s Carol was composed to a 15th-century anonymous text, A babe is born all of a may, found in the Sloane manuscript in the British Library. In modern times this text was memorably set to music in exuberant style by William Mathias, but I felt there was scope for a more introspective setting: given the brief that there was to be an accompaniment for percussion, I found a counterpart to the mood of the text in the characterful and perhaps slightly enigmatic tone-colour of marimba, with crotales (small pitched metal plates sounding like like tiny bells) at the point of climax in the music.
This commission has been generously supported by Sandra Rosignoli.
John Rutter was born in London in 1945 and received his first musical education as a chorister at Highgate School. He went on to study music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he wrote his first published compositions and conducted his first recording while still a student. His compositional career has embraced both large and small-scale choral works, orchestral and instrumental pieces, a piano concerto, two children's operas, music for television, and specialist writing for such groups as the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the King's Singers. His larger choral works, Gloria (1974), Requiem (1985), Magnificat (1990), Psalmfest (1993) and Mass of the Children(2003) have been performed many times around the world. He co-edited four volumes in the Carols for Choirs series with Sir David Willcocks, and, more recently, has edited the first two volumes in the new Oxford Choral Classics series, Opera Choruses (1995) and European Sacred Music(1996). From 1975 to 1979 he was Director of Music at Clare College, whose choir he directed in a number of broadcasts and recordings. After giving up the Clare post to allow more time for composition, he formed the Cambridge Singers as a professional chamber choir primarily dedicated to recording, and he now divides his time between composition and conducting. He has guest-conducted or lectured at many concert halls, universities, churches, music festivals, and conferences in Europe, Africa, North and Central America and Australasia. In 1980 he was made an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, and in 1988 a Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians. In 1996 the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred a Lambeth Doctorate of Music upon him in recognition of his contribution to church music. He was honoured in the 2007 Queen’s New Year Honours List, being awarded a CBE for services to music. Most of John Rutter's music is published by Oxford University Press.