Advent ‘O’ Carol

Advent 'O' Carol by Joanna Forbes L'Estrange


Advent ‘O’ Carol
by Joanna Forbes L’Estrange

A carol for Advent, based on the words and chants of the seven medieval “O” antiphons.
For unaccompanied SATB (small amount of divisi)

Published by RSCM


Composer’s note
Advent “O” Carol is inspired by the text and chants of the seven Christmas “O” Antiphons which traditionally would have been sung in the days immediately preceding Christmas (known as the Greater Ferias). The “O” refrain, which opens the piece and reoccurs between each of the seven verses, is based on the opening melodic chant of the Medieval antiphons, its 7/8 time signature reinforcing the piece’s connection to the number seven. Ignoring the “O”, the first letter of each verse forms an acrostic which, when reversed, spells ERO CRAS, Latin for “I shall be (with you) tomorrow”. I have reworded this as “Tomorrow I will come” for the final resolution of the piece.

O Sapientia / O Wisdom
O Adonai / O Lord and Ruler
O Radix Jesse / O Root of Jesse
O Clavis David / O Key of David
O Oriens / O Dawn of the East
O Rex Gentium / O King of the Gentiles
O Emmanuel / O Emmanuel

Depending on the size and ability of your choir, there is scope to divide the singers into those who sing the refrains (the ‘ripieno’ SSATB) and a solo SATB quartet to sing the verses. If space allows, it would be very effective for the refrain choir to stay put whilst the solo quartet moves slowly around the building, singing each verse in a different location, finally returning to the main choir for the climactic ‘O Emmanuel’ tutti entry. Alternatively, the refrains and the verses could be sung by the same singers; a minimum of seven singers (SSAATBB) is required to cover the occasional divisi.

In order for the close harmonies to be heard and to reinforce the Medieval origins of the piece, minimal or no vibrato is preferable.