19 December - As on the Night (Song 46)

Yesterday - Up - Tomorrow

We return, as we often do, to England of the early seventeenth century, and Orlando Gibbons. As well as being a renowned composer, his inclusion is pleasing as he was baptised on Christmas Day, 1583. As well as a great deal of liturgical music, verse anthems, madrigals, and an array of keyboard and other instrumental works, he set seventeen texts by his contemporary George Wither, poet and satirist.

It is from this collection, The Hymnes and Songs of the Church, published in 1623, that this piece is taken. The music, Song 46, is a combination of two other hymn tunes Gibbons wrote for the collection, the first of which has been used for other hymns over the centuries, including Drop, Drop, Slow Tears.

Music: Orlando Gibbons
Words: George Wither
Musician: Tony Evershed

As on the night before this blessèd morn,
A troupe of angels unto shepherds told,
Where (in a stable) he was poorly born,
Whom, nor the earth nor Heav’n of heav’ns can hold
Through Bethl'em rung
This news at their return;
Yea, angels sung,
That GOD WITH US was born:
And they made mirth, because we should not mourn.

His love therefore, O let us all confess
And to the sons of men his works express.

This favour Christ vouchsafèd for our sake,
To buy us thrones, he in a manger lay.
Our weakness took, that we his strength might take,
And was disrobed, that he might us array,
Our flesh he wore,
Our sin to weare away.
Our cure he bore,
That we escape it may,
And wept for us, that wee might sing for aye.

His love therefore, O let us all confess
And to the sons of men his works express.