A Ceremony of Carols

“A Ceremony of Carols—Wolcum Yule” by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) (Notes by Jeffry A. Jahn)

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, was a native of Suffolk, England. Britten was an outstanding pianist, conductor and a prolific composer of hymns, song cycles, choral works, orchestral pieces and operas – including the well-known Peter Grimes. He is considered a giant of 20th century British classical music. Britten was influenced by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and was a close friend of Aaron Copland and Dmitri Shostakovich. He wrote many pieces for his musical collaborator and lifelong partner, tenor Peter Pears. A Ceremony of Carols, composed in 1942 during a sea voyage from the United States to England, contains text from a Middle English work entitled ‘An English Galaxy of Shorter Poems’ by Gerald Bullett. Although Britten originally wrote the pieces as a series of unrelated songs, he later framed them as one work with unifying motifs played by solo harp and other motifs from Wolcum Yule.