Earth, Strike Up Your Music
SATB Chorus (divisi) and Organ, with opt. Congregation

 

About the Work 

Earth Strike Up Your Music—winner of the 2022 AGO/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition—was premiered by the St. James Cathedral Choir at the American Guild of Organists National Convention in Seattle Washington on July 3, 2022. Scored for SATB choir and organ with optional congregational participation on the poem Christmas Eve by Christina Rossetti. 

Joseph Adam - Director of Music

Chris Stroh - Organist

Program Notes

In this piece, I was inspired by the contrasting imagery of darkness and light used in the two stanzas of the Christina Rossetti's poem, Christmas Eve, which I felt portray the transition from the darkness of Advent to the light of Christ’s birth at Christmas.

 

I portrayed the darkness of Advent by beginning the work in a minor key, as the tenors introduce the opening melody on the words “Christmas hath a darkness.” To illustrate the contrast between darkness and light, I set the words “darker” and “chillness” in the lower voices and the words “brighter” and “warmer” in the upper voices, alternating antiphonally with each pair of words. To enhance the movement from darkness to light, I used running sixteenth notes and arpeggiations in the organ, building to a climax on the words “soon to sing.”

 

Finally arriving at the light of Christmas, the choir joyfully sings “Earth, strike up your music,”—now in a major key—to the tune that was initially introduced by the tenors, eventually joined by the congregation and a descant. The piece gradually recedes both dynamically and melodically, reflecting the lowly nature of “Jesus, brought for us so low,” as the organ finishes the work in a spirit of peaceful joy.

Text 

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)