A Sample of my Carols

The three carols listed here were published by Encore Publications in 2006, but they were written a few years before that. The Way of Paradox and Snow were both written in 2003, and Alchemy was written a year later in 2004. I would not want these works to be taken as statements of faith. (I am more Buddhist than Christian.) In writing them, my approach was academic rather than personal. I wanted to see if it were possible to write a Christmas carol in such a way that it avoided the usual repetition of the two Gospel narratives, but instead focused more on the core theological meaning of the Christian idea of the ‘Incarnation’.

The teacher with whom I collaborated, Neil Porter-Thaw, had had no experience of composition when we started this project, just as I had had no experience of writing lyrics. So we really didn’t know what we were doing. However, looking at these pieces again, now, all these years later, I don’t think that we did too badly at all. I could be wrong about this, of course, but, either way I don’t care because I remember having an absolute blast working on them.

As an incidental point of interest, I wrote the words to, The Way of Paradox when stuck in a traffic jam one afternoon on the A10. I wrote Snow during a free period at work when I should have been marking, and I wrote Alchemy during a school staff meeting. That’s the beauty of writing. You can do it anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, and nobody ever knows what you’re up to. It is the greatest form of escapism, ever.

THE WAY OF PARADOX
SNOW
ALCHEMY

Summon the scholars,

Commission all views,

Re-write the textbooks,

Consult every Muse.

 

 

The laws of our governance

No longer hold sway,

The world has been altered

On this Christmas day.

 

 

The grammatical I

No longer exists,

Three is now One

And no logic persists.

 

 

No compass direction

Gives orientation,

All solitary travel

Has lost its duration.

 

 

The Earth has changed orbit

Through one act of love,

All order’s upturned,

What was low is above.

 

 

All age is suspended:

Each calendar date,

Time’s Scythe and its Glass

Lie smashed at His Gate.

 

 

Tell all whom you see

In the town and the street

Of this New Dispensation,

Tell all whom you meet.

 

 

This new wondrous world

Is to me quite unknown,

But I know through unknowing

We’re no longer alone.

 

 

Summon the scholars,

Commission all views,

Re-write the textbooks,

Consult every Muse.

 

 

The laws of our governance

No longer hold sway,

The world has been altered

On this Christmas day.

 

 

Words reproduced here by kind permission of Encore Publications.

 

Recording: Ely Cathedral, December 2003

Conductor: Neil Porter-Thaw (composer)

Tenor: Peter North

Choir: King’s Voices (King’s Ely Junior)

Pianist: Nicola Sivier

It came in the stealth of the night,

In the silence of a perfect conspiracy,

With the touch of a thief it crept softly

Leaving nothing behind but a mystery.

 

 

It stilled and becalmed all before it

Before furtively hiding its treasure

In the shroud of a white untold secret

Beyond all comprehension or measure.

 

 

We woke to a blinding concealment

And a deafening absence of sound,

Nothing was left but the debris

Of the plunder that lay all around.

 

 

The staccato sharp crunch of my footsteps

Imprinted their way out of sight

And remained as the final deception

As the trail of the thief of the night.

 

 

The world had been changed whilst we slept,

Transformed overnight from above,

As a birth once did in Palestine,

Not by intrigue or guile, but through love.

 

 

Words reproduced here by kind permission of Encore Publications.

 

Recording: Ely Cathedral, December 2003

Conductor: Neil Porter-Thaw (composer)

Choir: King’s Voices (King’s Ely Junior)

Pianist: Nicola Sivier

The sculptor chips stone into form,

The painter turns oil into light,

The dancer translates every language to movement,

The lawyer discerns wrong from right.

 

 

The writer distils life from ink,

The athlete makes fluid the race,

The clockmaker measures invisible moments,

The architect captures the space.

 

 

Such artistry fills us with wonder,

As fragments on Earth of God’s plan,

When once in a Bethlehem stable,

The Word came incarnate as Man,

So abandon your dallies with magic,

Such hokum is lifeless and cold,

Real alchemy burns this Christmas,

Transforming the world into gold.

 

 

The tailor cuts cloth into style,

The gardener fashions the ground,

The geographer scales down the world to a ball,

Composers can journey through sound.

 

 

The cook conjures food into flavour,

The cleaner buffs old into new,

The scientist sees hidden patterns and laws,

The actor becomes me and you.

 

 

Such artistry fills us with wonder,

As fragments on Earth of God’s plan,

When once in a Bethlehem stable,

The Word came incarnate as Man,

So abandon your dallies with magic,

Such hokum is lifeless and cold,

Real alchemy burns this Christmas,

Transforming the world into gold.

 

 

 

Words reproduced here by kind permission of Encore Publications.

 

Recording: Ely Cathedral, December 2004

Conductor: Neil Porter-Thaw (composer)

Choir: King’s Voices (King’s Ely Junior)

Organist: Graham Griggs