Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

Rudsambee’s first Christmas album includes some old favourites and well known carols but also pieces from further off the beaten track and some new writing by Peter Hill and Sheena Phillips.

There is a long and loved tradition of singing carols and re-telling the story of a much wanted birth at Christmas. But the Christmas festival is just part of an even longer history of celebrating life and the dawning of a new year as mid-winter passes and the days start to lighten again. To celebrate both these aspects of winter, we’ve put touches of the pagan as well as the Christian in our collection.

We start with two songs heralding the Christmas season, followed by our title song, which celebrates the “birthday of the undefeated sun”. The next seven songs all tell parts of the Christmas story, starting with the Angel’s visit to Mary and the journey to Bethlehem, and moving on to four songs in different languages about the shepherds’ visit to the baby.

Tracks 11-13 all include images of winter trees, whether bare or evergreen. The Christmas tree tradition appears to have evolved in late Medieval Germany, but evergreen trees were pagan symbols of life in winter for centuries before that.

Track 14, a new setting of In the bleak mid-winter, is used to re-set the scene for six further carols celebrating and reflecting on the birth of the infant Jesus. The last three tracks are a motley but joyful collection of madrigal, wassail song and hymn of praise.

  1. Noël 15th century Burgundian [0:54]
  2. Advent hymn 18th century English [2:18]
  3. Dies natalis invicti solis new carol [2:00]
  4. Angelus ad virginem 14th century English [2:58]
  5. Nova! nova! 15th century English [2:21]
  6. O Joseph, being an old man truly traditional Cornish [3:02]
  7. While shepherds watched their flocks by night 18th century English [2:32]
  8. Noël nouvelet! traditional French [1:46]
  9. Quem pastores 14th century German [1:19]
  10. Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht’ 17th century German [3:20]
  11. Christmas song traditional Sussex [1:56]
  12. O Tannenbaum traditional German [1:55]
  13. The holly and the ivy traditional English [2:10]
  14. In the bleak mid-winter new setting [2:40]
  15. I sing of a maiden 20th century setting [2:02]
  16. Taladh Chriosda traditional Gaelic [3:33]
  17. En etsi valtaa, loistoa 20th century Finnish [2:06]
  18. King Jesus hath a garden 17th century Dutch [2:25]
  19. Ecce novum gaudium 17th century Scottish [1:45]
  20. In dulci jubilo new jazz setting [2:11]
  21. To shorten winter’s sadness 17th century English [2:17]
  22. Wassail song traditional Yorkshire [2:17]
  23. Glory to God on high American c.1800 [1:30]

Playing time 52:16

The singers

Kaye Brewster, Christina Brown, Michael Buck, Paul Carline, Mirren Childs, Frances Cockburn, Peter Hawkins, Peter Hill, Alison Hunter, Sari Kontkanen, Anna Partridge, Sheena Phillips, Frank Tollick, John and Susan Wexler.

Directed by Sheena Phillips.

Recorded by Chris Overton in Crichton Collegiate Church, Midlothian, 18 January 1998.

Edited and produced by Sheena Phillips and John Wexler at Edinburgh University’s Graphics and Multimedia Resource Centre.

Thanks to Peter and Claudia Ferguson-Smyth and the Crichton Collegiate Church Trust for welcoming us to Crichton Church; to Chris Overton; and to everyone else who has supported us.

Cover design by R.A.L.B.

Music to tracks 1 and 19 published by Stainer & Bell. Music to tracks 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 22 published by Oxford University Press. Music to track 21 published by Chester Music.

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