The Holly and the Ivy

Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
3 minutes
Classical music
Instrumental parts
Not available

This is a new version of the traditional carol, and would suit a competent four-part choir who wish to ring the changes in their annual carol service or concert.

Commencing in G minor, in a lively 6/8 modal style, the five verses are given to the different voice parts in turn – Soprano (v1), Tenor (v2), Alto (v3), Bass (v4); the prevailing mood of each verse-setting reflecting the words. Each verse is interpolated by a homophonic refrain, “The rising of the sun…”.

The fifth verse, sung by the full choir, paints the words poignantly, using a single instance of 5/8 time to highlight the holly bark being “as bitter as any gall”. This leads to a slower, softer setting of the line “and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, for to redeem us all”. The contemplative mood here is intended to draw attention to these words, and not deprive them of any rejoicing. An abrupt rise to A minor brings a lively return of the opening verse, shared this time by Soprano and Tenor.

The final refrain, with a busier piano part this time, confirms the triumphant mood. It is extended into a fortissimo augmentation of “sweet singing in the choir”, before the piece closes quietly with an even softer restatement of “and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ, for to redeem us all”.

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