Hodie Salvator Apparuit A sequence for Christmas

 

Hodie was written in response to a commission from Christopher Seaman and the Salterello Choir, who gave the first performance in December 1970. The varied Christmas texts form a continuous sequence of movements which reflect on aspects of the Christmas story. The three main movements are linked by Biblical recitatives and set within a framework setting of the poem Hodie Christus natus est. After a bell-like opening, with recurring cries of "Noe!" the music leads into the first movement which paints a picture of the stable in Bethlehem with overlapping antiphonal settings of I sing of a maiden and Dormi, Jesu. The central movement sets a medieval macaronic poem (i.e. a mixture of Latin and English) describing the appearance of the angels to the shepherds. Their excitement and sense of urgency is reflected in vigorous cross-rhythms and imitative counterpoint. The joyful mood is cut short by the "lully" refrain of the Coventry Carol heralding the final movement which recounts the slaughter of the Holy Innocents by King Herod. The double choir writing is here much starker and more anguished in its use of discord and chromaticism than anywhere else in the work. A brief recitative links us to the coda in which the bell sounds and rejoicing of the opening are revisited to bring the work to a triumphant conclusion.

 

Christopher Brown 1997