31 Oct 2010, Posted by Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver

Angels From Heaven Came

Angels From Heaven Came CD CoverAdvent and Christmas are full of expectation and joy. We hope that Angels From Heaven Came becomes one of your favourite seasonal CDs and heightens your own experience of the wonder and beauty that is Christmas.This collection of music was recorded either as part of Christ Church Cathedral’s Advent Lessons and Carols service for broadcast by CBC radio in 2002, or as unedited submissions for the CBC’s biennial choral competition.

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Track Details


1. Behold a Mighty Prophet (Hallock)
2. Rorate Caeli (Palestrina)
3. O Radix Jesse (Willan*)
4. Psalm 134 (Sweelinck)
5. Long, Long Ago (Howells)
6. Hodie Christus Natus Est (Poulenc)
7. Adam Lay Ybounden (Larkin*)
8. How Like an Angel (Lang*)
9. Remember O Thou Man (Ravenscroft)
10. Ave Maris Stella (arr. Loomer*)
11. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Praetorius)
12. Angels from Heaven Came (Quick*)
13. Hodie Christus Natus Est (Sweelinck)
* Canadian composer or arranger.
Notes for each track by Stephen Wright.


Behold a Mighty Prophet

Composer: Peter Hallock | Handbells: Cathedral Choir Members | Publisher: Walton Music (W2199) | Length: 7:34

Born in 1924, Peter Hallock is one of the most important figures in recent Episcopal Church music. Organist and director of music at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle from 1951 to 1991, Hallock composed a three-year cycle of psalm settings (the Ionian Psalter), along with many other liturgical works. He also instituted a weekly Compline service at St. Mark’s, which led to a revival of interest in that office in many churches, including Christ Church Cathedral. Scored for double choir and handbells, Behold a Mighty Prophet alternates chant-like statements with more expansive musical depictions of the text. The final alleluias grow in intensity before fading out over a bell ostinato.


Text: liturgical,  from the Advent Propers

Behold a mighty Prophet, Comes in might and power to save;
King and shepherd, Prince of Peace, Alleluia.

Behold, the Lord will come to save the nations,
and the glory of His voice will sound upon the mountains. Alleluia.

O light in darkness shining; Sun of righteousness arise.
King and shepherd, Prince of Peace, Alleluia.

The dew of heaven falls softly like the rain upon the mown grass.
O Lord prepare within a barren heart,
a peaceful place whereby thy grace therein may ever grow that blissful flower.
God’s fairest rose. Alleluia.

O Zion’s sons and daughters, hasten forth to greet your Lord.
King and shepherd, Prince of Peace, Alleluia.

Rise up, O Jerusalem. Stand upon the heights.

Rejoice and sing ye nations as your saviour draweth nigh;
King and shepherd, Prince of Peace, Alleluia.


Rorate Caeli (Pour Out, You Heavens)

Composer: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina | Publisher: Chester / Novello (CH56598) distributed by Hal Leonard | Length: 2:56

Palestrina (c.1529-94) was the first composer in history whose style was codified and consciously preserved as an exemplar.  To the Catholic Church, his works are a model of liturgical music, while to musical historians Palestrina represents the pinnacle of Renaissance polyphony.  Rorate Caeli is the second part of a longer motet, Canite Tuba, first published in Palestrina’s second book of motets in 1572.  The text derives in part from the Introit at mass on the fourth Sunday of Advent.  The vigorous opening is followed by a quieter, homophonic section for the text “Show us your mercy, O Lord.”  At the words “Come, O Lord” the music becomes more impassioned, and the motet ends with a flourish of alleluias.


Text: liturgical

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant justum:
aperiatur terra et germinet Salvatorem.
Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam,
et salutare tuum da nobis.
Veni Domine, et noli tardare. Alleluia.
Pour out dew from above, you heavens,
and let the clouds rain down the Just One.
Let the earth open and bring forth a Saviour.
Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
Come, O Lord, and do not delay. Alleluia.


O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

Composer: Healey Willan | Publisher: Concordia Publishing House (98-2740) | Length: 1:12

“English by birth, Irish by extraction, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch by absorption,” Healey Willan (1880-1968) was Precentor at the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto from 1921 until his death, and in that capacity composed a major body of liturgical works.  Written in 1957 for the Southern Conference of the American Lutheran Church, “O Radix Jesse” is the third of the seven Great O Antiphons of Advent, so named because they all begin with the letter O.  Associated with the seven days before Christmas, each antiphon takes as its theme one of the names or attributes of Christ; their combined texts were later paraphrased in the hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel.”  Willan’s settings, redolent of plainsong, share common musical ideas but each is subtly responsive to its individual text.


Text: liturgical, translated by Arthur Carl Piepkorn

O Root of Jesse, who standest for an ensign of the people,
before whom kings shall keep their silence,
to whom the nations shall offer their petitions,
come to deliver us; wait not any longer.


Psalm 134 (Or sus, serviteurs du Seigneur)

Composer: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck | Publisher: ECS Publishing (2791) | Length: 1:57

Mainly known now as a composer of keyboard music and the teacher of many members of the North German organ school, Sweelinck (1562-1621) wrote an even larger number of (now unjustly neglected) vocal works.  Organist at the Calvinist Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, Sweelinck composed polyphonic settings of the entire Genevan Psalter, a collection of metrical psalms, in French, with simple tunes for congregational use.  For reasons unknown Sweelinck set psalm 134 twice, for 6 (1604) or 4 voices (1614); the former version is presented here.  The original melody provided for psalm 134 by Loys Bourgeois is one of the most famous hymn tunes in existence but was later associated with a different psalm in England, thus its name – “The Old Hundredth.”  Sweelinck uses the tune as a basis for his vocal lines which are then developed contrapuntally.  Such a setting would be far too elaborate for a Reformed service; likely it was intended for domestic use by wealthy burgher families whose language was French rather than the vernacular.


Text: Psalm 134:1, translated by Theodore de Bèze Psalm 134:1, Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter (1562)
Or sus, serviteurs du Seigneur,
Vous qui de nuict en son honneur,
Dedans sa maison le servez,
Louezle et son Nom eslevez.
Behold, and have regard,
ye servants of the Lord,
who in his house by night do watch,
praise him with one accord.


Long, Long Ago

Composer: Herbert Howells | Publisher: Chester / Novello (NOV130300) distributed by Hal Leonard | Length: 4:52

At the beginning of his long career Herbert Howells (1892-1983) wrote mainly instrumental music, but in later life he gravitated more toward choral works. In addition to other pieces Howells eventually produced some twenty settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for the Anglican service of evensong, often for specific structures (e.g., King’s College, Cambridge or St. Paul’s). The carol-anthem Long, long ago was composed in a single day in September, 1950, to a poem written by John Buxton while the latter was in a prisoner of war camp in 1940. Howell’s sinuous vocal lines and complex harmonies depict the familiar nativity images, while the repeated words “Long ago, Christ was born in Bethlehem to heal the world’s woe” perhaps had a deeper significance for Buxton when he wrote them.


Text: John Buxton, Such Liberty. Poem not reproduced here due to copyright reasons.


Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ is Born)

Composer: Francis Poulenc | Publisher: Editions Salabert (SEAS16762) distributed by Hal Leonard | Length: 2:21

After the death of a close friend in a car crash in 1936, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was drawn back to the Catholic faith of his childhood. The result was a steady output of religious works, in sharp contrast to his earlier compositions which owed much to the music hall. Poulenc composed several sets of sacred a capella choral works, including his Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël (1951-52); “Hodie Christus natus est” is the last of the set. During his studies with Charles Koechlin Poulenc realized that he “was more of a harmonist than a contrapuntist,” so it is no surprise to find the setting of “Hodie” is entirely homophonic. Instead, Poulenc adds musical interest through the gradation of dynamics and use of rests, but especially by subtly varying the unique, piquant harmonies as the text is repeated.


Text: liturgical Translation by Allen H. Simon
Hodie Christus natus est:
Hodie Salvator apparuit:
Hodie in terra, canunt Angeli,
laetantur Archangeli
Hodie exultant justi, dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Today Christ is born:
Today the Saviour appeared:
Today on Earth the Angels sing,
Archangels rejoice:
Today the righteous rejoice, saying:
Glory to God in the highest.


Adam Lay Ybounden

Composer: Matthew Larkin | Publisher: Cypress Choral Music (CP1025) | Length: 3:32

Matthew Larkin is a composer, organist and choral conductor. Previously employed at the Church of St. John the Divine in Victoria, since 2003 he has been organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, and is also director of the Ottawa Choral Society. The anonymous text of Adam Lay Ybounden is found in the series of manuscripts amassed by Sir Hans Sloane which later formed the nucleus of the British Museum. The best known musical setting is that by Boris Ord; Larkin’s version, for women’s voices, alternates the text with a wordless keening over the effect of the Fall, resolving into a final major chord indicative of the redemption achieved through the vessel of “our ladie.”


Text: English, 15th Century

Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond.
Four thousand winter thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerkes finden written in their book.

Ne, ne, had the apple taken been.
Ne had never our ladie abeen heav’ne queen.

Blessed be the time that apple taken was –
therefore we moun singen, Deo gracias.


How Like an Angel

Composer: Rupert Lang | Soloist: Bruce Pullan | Organist: John Mitchell | Pianist: David Stratkouskas | Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes (M051468027) distributed by Hal Leonard | Length: 7:39

Organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver and founder of the Vancouver Children’s Choir, Rupert Lang is also a composer of distinction. Now regarded as a major Metaphysical poet, most of Thomas Traherne’s work was lost until the very end of the nineteenth century, when it was discovered in manuscript form on a street bookstall. The text of How Like an Angel derives from the poem “Wonder,” incidentally also set by Gerald Finzi as part of his cantata Dies natalis. Lang depicts three elements of the poem: the opening descending theme “presents an image of God coming to earth,” the ascending theme at “O how their glory” represents “creation reaching heavenward,” while the wonders of creation are extolled in Purcellian recitative by the soloist. At the end of the piece all three elements combine in a paean to the Creator.


Text: Thomas Traherne.  For the full poem, click here.

How like an angel came I down
How bright are all things here
When first among His works I did appear.

O how their glory did me crown
The world resembled His eternity
In which my soul did walk
and every thing that I did see did with me talk.

Rich diamond and pearl and gold
In every place was seen;
Rare splendours, yellow, blue, red, white and green.
Mine eyes did everywhere behold

Great wonders clothed with glory did appear,
Amazement was my bliss.
That and my wealth was everywhere:
No joy to this.

Proprieties themselves were mine,
and hedges ornaments, walls, boxes,
coffers and their rich contents
did not divide my joys but all combine.

Clothes, ribbons, jewels laces I esteemed
my joys by others worn
for me they all to wear them seemed when I was born.


Remember O Thou Man

Composer: Thomas Ravenscroft | Publisher: Oxford University Press (9780193355767) from “Advent for Choirs” distributed by Edition Peters | Length: 2:50

Little is known for certain about the life of Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1590-1635), but part of his legacy are the first published collections of English popular music: Pammelia and Deuteromelia in 1609 and Melismata two years later.  The first two are compilations of rounds, catches and folk songs (including an early version of “Three Blind Mice”), while Melismata: musicall phansies fitting the court, citie, and countrey humours also contains songs with instrumental accompaniment in a more learned style.  The last item in the Country Pastimes section of Melismata is “Remember O thou man;” presented as a solo song with instruments and a chorus of lower voices joining in the refrain, the piece can equally well be performed by voices alone.


Text: Thomas Ravenscroft

Remember, O thou man,
O thou man, O thou man,
Remember, O thou man,
Thy time is spent:
Remember, O thou man,
How thou cam’st to me then,
And I did what I can,
Therefore repent.

Remember God’s goodness,
O thou man, O thou man,
Remember God’s goodness
And promise made:
Remember God’s goodness,
How his only Son he sent,
Our sins for to redress:
Be not afraid.

The angels all did sing,
O thou man, O thou man,
The angels all did sing,
On Sion hill:
The angels all did sing
Praises to our heav’nly King,
And peace to man living,
With right good will.

In Bethlem was he born,
O thou man, O thou man,
In Bethlem was he born,
For mankind dear:
In Bethlem was he born
For us that were forlorn,
And therefore took no scorn,
Our sins to bear.


Ave Maris Stella

Arranger: Diane Loomer | Publisher: Cypress Choral Music (CP1007) | Length: 2:47

Diane Loomer has been involved in the founding and directing of a number of Vancouver choirs, most notably Elektra Women’s Choir, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, and recently the EnChor Chamber Choir. Despite her busy schedule she also somehow finds the time to compose and arrange. Originally written for the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir, this setting of the Vesper hymn uses a melody which is connected with the history of the Maritimes, specifically Acadia. Devoutly Roman Catholic, the French settlers who colonized the region in the seventeenth century adopted the hymn; the name Mary, according to Bernard of Clairvaux, means “star of the sea,” thus Marian devotion was particularly attractive to those in maritime communities. Ave Maris Stella was made the official anthem of the Acadian people at the Second Acadian National Convention in 1884, and was sung entirely in Latin until the inclusion of French words in 1994.


Text: liturgical

Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix caeli porta.Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Evae nomen. Amen.
Hail, star of the sea,
loving Mother of God,
And virgin immortal,
Heaven’s blissful portal!Receiving that “Ave”
from the mouth of Gabriel,
reversing the name of “Eva,”
Establish us in peace.


Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Composer: Michael Praetorius | Publisher: G. Schirmer Inc. (OC2484) distributed by Hal Leonard | Length: 3:17

Born with the surname Schultze, German composer and theorist Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) was extremely prolific and published his works in several large collections. The nine-volume Musae Sioniae, issued between 1605 and 1610, contains over 1,200 sacred compositions, with volumes IV to VI dealing specifically with Lutheran hymnody. These volumes demonstrate the wide variety of styles in which chorale melodies were set at the time. Both the text and tune of “Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen” appear to stem from the diocese of Trier. The simple homophonic harmonization by Praetorius, in four parts with the melody in the top voice, is typical of the chorales designed for congregational use in the new Protestant churches.


Text: verses 1-2, German, 15th Century, translated by Theodore Baker; verse 3, Friedrich Layritz, translated by Harriet R. Spaeth (altered)

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming as seers of old have sung.
It came, a blossom bright,
amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind,
with Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to us a Saviour, when half spent was the night.O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispel in glorious splendour the darkness everywhere;
Incarnate God, we pray,
help us in every sorrow, and guard us on our way.


Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sunken, aus Jesse kam die Art,
und hat ein Blümlein bracht,
mitten im kalten Winter, wohl zu der halben Nacht.


Angels From Heaven Came

Composer: Jonathan Quick | Publisher: Cypress Choral Music (CP1118) | Length: 6:26

A composer, arranger, conductor, singer, and sound engineer, Jonathan Quick is one of the more versatile musicians active in Vancouver, B.C.  Written in 2002, Angels from Heaven Came combines two familiar texts connected with angels: the visit of the angel to the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke, and the Annunciation as paraphrased by Sabine Baring-Gould.  Initially separated by the two texts and different tonalities, the women’s and men’s choirs retain their angelic and earthly identities but gradually combine to praise God who has reconciled the two realms.  The Cathedral Choir is particularly proud of this recording of Quick’s piece, as it won for the choir an award for the Best Performance of a Canadian Work in the 2006 CBC Choral Competition.


Text: Luke 2:8-14 (King James Version)And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them,
“Fear not: for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day
in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel,
a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

Basque carol, paraphrased by Sabine Baring-GouldThe angel Gabriel from heaven came,his wings as drifted snow
his eyes as flame;

“All hail,” said he,
“thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady,”

“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy Son shall be Emmanuel,
by seers foretold,
most highly favoured lady,”


Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ is Born)

Composer: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck | Publisher: Oxford University Press (9780193418073), edited by John Rutter, distributed by Edition Peters | Length: 3:03

Apart from setting the entire Genevan Psalter Sweelinck also composed music for the Roman Rite, published as Cantiones Sacrae in 1619.  The last representative of the Franco-Flemish school that included Dufay, Ockeghem and Josquin, Sweelinck was adept in all aspects of contrapuntal technique.  In Hodie he achieves a strong sense of unity by the use of a recurrent theme or its inversion, and there is much imaginative word-painting.  Sweelinck completes each section of music with an exultant “noe” or “alleluia,” and ends the piece with a joyous extended coda combining both.


Text: liturgical Translation by Allen H. Simon
Hodie Christus natus est, noe.
Hodie Salvator apparuit, alleluia.
Hodie in terra, canunt angeli,
laetantur archangeli, noe.
Hodie exultant justi, dicentes:
gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia, noe.
Today Christ is born, noel.
Today the Saviour appeared, alleluia.
Today on Earth the angels sing,
Archangels rejoice, noel.
Today the righteous rejoice, saying:
glory to God in the highest, alleluia, noel.


Cover Information

Photographer: Martin Knowles | Graphic Designer: Andrea Yoo

The art in the cover photo of the CD comes from the fifth panel of the large stained glass window in the Cathedral’s sanctuary.  The design by William T. Lyon Co. from Toronto depicts different scenes from Christ’s life beginning with the Nativity. The inscription on the window is dedicated “In Loving Memory of Stephen Ormond Richards, 1911”.


Review by Diane Loomer, C.M.

Founder and Artistic Director, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir | Co-Founder and Conductor Emerita, Elektra Women’s Choir

Angels from Heaven Came is the perfect title for this Christmas CD, a treasure chest  of glorious music.   Filled with gems from the 16th century right up to the present day,  the juxtaposition of musical styles and times seems  to enhance rather than distract  from the charm of each work.  It’s as if well-meaning angels had carefully collected their most-adored choral gems from Christmases throughout the ages and assembled them in dazzling array for all of us to hear, admire, and rediscover.

This choir sings a cappellamusic very beautifully. Diction, tuning, stylistic interpretation and simple purity in sound were especially attractive in the Willan, Larkin, Ravenscroft, Sweelinck and Praetorius.  And although I’m biased I must say my secret favourite is Ave Maris Stella – I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sung so reverently nor with such tenderness as on this CD.  Sometimes simplicity is all we need.  The only accompanied number is Lang’s How Like An Angel Came I Down and although I like this piece of music very much, I found myself selfishly and indulgently wanting the whole CD to be a cappella.   And even though it may bring more ‘reality’ to the performance, I found the sounds of traffic and congregation on some of the live tracks distracting. Here again, I wanted the luxury of silence and stillness as I listened to the purity and musicality of this wonderful choir’s sound.

Angels From Heaven Came contains a rich collection of Christmas repertoire that needs to be heard.   It is a treasure chest for the choral enthusiastto discover , marvel over and explore.


Review by Matthew Larkin


Organist and Director of Music, Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa | Music Director, Ottawa Choral Society | Founding Director, Larkin Singers

It was a windy and rainy night in the late summer of 1991 when I wrote Adam lay ybounden. It was one of those late summer rains that I used to love when I lived in Victoria, and the sound of the weather on the roof of St. John’s Church was just amazing. That was the aural backdrop for a lot of my writing in those days, and I haven’t felt the same kind of creativity since. Hearing the sound of Rupert’s choir as they so elegantly and thoughtfully sing my modest carol just brings back floods of memories – voices, faces, places – about a time in my life that I recall so vividly and poignantly. My attraction to this poem (and its somewhat more modern partner, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree) has always been based in the reminder that, wow, if it hadn’t been for the events in the Garden of Eden, there would be, arguably, no sin, and if there were no sin, there would be no Holy Redeemer. Where would we be then?

I know that every time I have been fortunate enough either to work with Rupert, the Cathedral Choir, or simply just to have the opportunity to hear you, I have been struck with the consummate artistry and musicality with which the group performs. Above even that is the sense of the Holy that you evoke, and I can feel that holiness with every crafted phrase that you sing. Thank-you for so graciously including my work in your Christmas offering. The entire recording is magnificent, ranging from the Renaissance splendours of Palestrina and Sweelinck (the latter’s Hodie is “Christmas” for me), to the spiritual conventionality of Willan’s O Radix Jesse (so often forgotten in a barrage of Bruckner performances of this text), to the fantastic modern offerings of Hallock, Quick, and of course, Rupert himself. Thank-you for this beautiful gift, which I know will touch Christmases all across Canada and beyond with the holy peace of the newborn Child.