by Anthony O’Toole (Grade 4, 4:30)
Commissioned by and premiered by the St. Olaf Band and their conductor, Dr. Timothy Mahr, for their 2017 First Sunday of Advent Service. This work is a setting of the Christmas Hymn, “Once In Royal David’s City”; the text was written in 1848 by Cecil F. Alexander and the tune (IRBY) was added to the text the following year by English organist and composer Henry Guantlett.
The melody written by Gauntlett is a strophic setting of the four stanzas of text – which means the same melody is sung with four different sets of lyrics. In my approach, I decided to write music that went along with the poetry of the text which depicts the humble nativity scene and the maternal love of a mother for her child. The first section uses the first three notes of the cited melody and new material is created from these pitches setting the scene musically of a lowly stable, a “little child” and a “mother mild”. The next section features the brass quintet playing the full tune, but in an understated way with simpler harmonies. In the next section I use the contours of the first melodic phrase but change the pitches slightly, which builds to the next stanza which is triumphant and glorious – “And our eyes at last shall see him.” The music winds down, revisiting the melodic ideas of the first section.
-Anthony O’Toole, December 2017