Once in Royal David's City for Concert Band (Grade 4)
Commissioned by the St. Olaf Band 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 written to the text the following year by composer, Henry Guantlett. The melody written by Gauntlett is a strophic setting of the 4 stanzas of text; which means the same melody is sung with 4 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 of Guantlett's but in an understated way with simpler harmonies. In the next section I use the contours of the first melodic phrase but changed 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.
Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.
He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and His shelter was a stable,
and His cradle was a stall:
with the poor, and meek, and lowly
lived on earth our Savior holy.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
through His own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle,
is our Lord in heav'n above,
and He leads His children on
to the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see Him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
when like stars His children crowned
all in white shall wait around.