A Christmas Invitation
A Christmas triptych for mixed chorus and orchestra to texts by Malcolm Guite.

Duration: 16'
Difficulty: 3/5

  • Fezziwig's Ball (4:45)
  • Look! Look! O man, look at the world you make! (6:15)
  • Christmas is the Lord's own day, Rejoice! (5:00)

Click here to view score.
Voicing/Instrumentation
VOICES

Mixed Chorus (divisi, with solos)

ORCHESTRA

Piccolo
2 Flutes
2 Oboes
Cor Anglais
2 Clarinets
Bass Clarinet
2 Bassoons
Contrabassoon

4 French Horns
3 Trumpets
2 Tenor Trombones
Bass Trombone
Tuba

Timpani

Percussion (2 players)
     Glockenspiel
     Chimes (Tubular Bells)
     Gran Cassa
     Piatti
     Suspended Cymbals (Small, Medium & Large)
     Tambourine
     Tam Tam

Harp
Celesta

Strings

Note: Piccolo, Cor Anglais, Bass Clarinet, Contrabassoon, Horns III-IV and Trumpet 3 are optional parts.
Notes
A Christmas Invitation is a three-movement work for mixed chorus, soloists and orchestra. I have chosen Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as inspiration, although the texts are original poems by Cambridge poet Malcolm Guite. The setting is not intended as a literal tableaux. Rather, because of the metaphoric value of the story’s spirits, Christmas Past, Present, and Future, I hope a variety of responses from convivial joy to thoughtful reflection will be invoked.

The first movement (Fezziwig’s Ball) revels in the nostalgia and merriment of our Victorian Christmas traditions, with music full of rhythm and vitality. As this movement closes, both text and music cast a shadow of loneliness over this beautiful scene, leading into a sober second movement (Look! Look! O man, look at the world you make) which reflects on Dickens’ surprising revelation of Ignorance and Want under the robe of the spirit of Christmas Present. The third movement (Christmas is the Lord’s own day, Rejoice!) proclaims hope for the future in the sort of redemption that was offered to Ebenezer Scrooge, while at the same time acknowledging that there are significant choices still before us. I hope this new holiday composition will be memorable and enjoyable for all!

––J.A.C. Redford, from the program notes to the world premiere, December 2015
Text
A Christmas Invitation
Malcolm Guite (1957- )

I - Fezziwig's Ball

“Trim the lamps,” says Fezziwig,
“Tonight it's Christmas Eve!”
And every lad is clearing space
And rolling up his sleeve,

And now we’ll have the shutters up,
And clear the desks aside
And make the warehouse snug and bright
To dance at Christmastide

Here's porter for the fiddler,
And brandy for the guests,
And sweets and cakes and comfits
In richly laden chests.

And children rush around the feast
And gaze with shining eyes
On roast meat and cold meat
And minced meat and pies

The holly berries glisten,
The ivy holds the light,
A blaze leaps up the chimney
To warm the winter’s night

Here's music for the couples
And dancing to the tune
As we all weave around and back
Beneath a Christmas moon

And here the young and hearty
Cut capers at the ball
With their old host and hostess
As nimble as them all

But silent in the corner
Invisible to all,
An old man and a spirit
Who cannot join the ball.

His long life on the outside
Is looking in at last
And longing for the chance he missed
In every Christmas past.

The power to make men happy
Had once been in his hands
If he could just release it now
That he might make amends!

And will he bloom or wither,
That long-excluded shade,
Who leaves a ghostly Christmas Past
And hears the music fade?

II - Look! Look! O man, look at the world you make!

We close the shutters up to make our feast
To share our plenty only with our own
But who is this? A stranger, not a guest,
Who calls us now to take the shutters down?

Look! Look! O man, look at the world you make!
These are your children, Ignorance and Want!
Look at the ones who suffer for your sake;
Pinched in their poverty, withered and gaunt,
Sewing the clothes and shoes you throw away,
Assembling every shiny new device.
You wrap the goods they make for Christmas Day,
Your children get the gifts –these pay the price.

But you can change, for change is in the air,
Want is a child who might yet find relief.
Loosen your love, release your heart and share,
O dare to be a patron, not a thief!
Let all your love for family and friends
Be widened by His Love, and make amends.

Rise from your table, throw the window wide
Take down the shutters and unbar the door
Welcome the stranger, call him to your side,
That he might teach you what this feast is for!

III - Christmas is the Lord’s own day, Rejoice!

Christmas is the Lord’s own day, Rejoice!
Rise and recover while you have the choice!
This is the day to loosen and release
The day to hear again His living voice.

“On Christmas day I come to be with you,
Today I take your nature for my own,
Today I offer you a heart of flesh,
Or will you choose again a heart of stone?

This Christmas choose between true life and death,
This Christmas choose between the good and ill,
This day I breathe in you my living breath,
This day you may do any good you will!

Oh come with me and I will come with you
And show you how to love my world with me
To bring your best to Ignorance and Want,
To be and bear the gift that makes them free.”

Christmas is the Lord’s own day, Rejoice!
Rise and recover, you still have the choice!
This is the day to loosen and release
The day to hear again His living voice.

Copyright ©2015 by Malcolm Guite.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Commission & Performance History
A Christmas Invitation was composed for Richard Nance and the Choirs and Orchestra of Pacific Lutheran University. It was premiered in 2015 on 2 December at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR, 5-6 & 11-12 December at Lagerquist Concert Hall on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University and 7 December at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA by the Choirs and Orchestra of Pacific Lutheran University with Richard Nance conducting. The performances were recorded for broadcast and the program was aired on PBS stations in Washington and Oregon during the Christmas season in 2015. In December 2016, the concert was aired over 200 times on PBS stations across the United States.