All Heaven and it was One Hour Old

Recording : Listen on Bandcamp.com – Performance by soprano Venicia Wilson

Score: All Heaven and it was One Hour Old, Spiral bound edition contains all three keys (medium, medium high, and high). Please contact me (mryantaylor@gmail.com) when you perform this work as this information is essential for my yearly ASCAP Plus grant application.

This song cycle is based on the Christmas poetry of Katherine Tynan, an Irish catholic poet who at one time, early in her career, was championed by William Butler Yeats. The five lovely, thought provoking poems that were chosen from her works for this song cycle capture the spirit of Christmas with a distinctly unique voice. They are filled with the hope and passion of a true believer, but not a brash one. Tynan’s poems are thoughtful, contemplative, the works of someone who will always stop and ponder an issue rather than resort to tired cliches.

One of these poems is really quite an amazing find. The Christmas Bird, never published until now, was located in a special collection of Katherine Tynan Hinkson papers by myself. Members of my family and I transcribed the barely legible hand-written manuscript especially for use in this song cycle (it took a few days, and we had to guess at a few of the words in the end, but we think we got most of it right). Like the other poems it is filled with unique symbols that I find very attractive and moving.

I hope this music and the message of Tynan’s poetry will add to your Christmas season, whether in your recital, concert or church service. Merry Christmas to you, whatever the day may be!

All poems by Katherine Tynan, from various collections and sources.

The Christmas Bird

As I went out a-walking in the dark of the wood,
I heard a bird talking with a golden hood.
When he perched in the hollies it was holy ground.
His throat of good feathers shed song all around.

I bring you glad tidings, gentles all:
Christ is born to lift men from thrall,
From death and God’s anger, by the holly tree,
I bring you glad tidings of salvation:
Good tidings! Christ is born in Bethlehem.

His body was golden, from the head to the feet.
All gloria in excelsis, His praise did repeat.
He was neither a linnet, nor a robin redbreast.
That was no golden eagle with a star for crest.

He went singing and soaring from the holly tree:
I bring you glad tidings, O gentles, quoth he.

As I went out a-walking in the holly thaw,
I heard a bird talking, great glory I saw.
The dark shining holly was splashed with red.
I bring you good tidings of a Savior, he said.

All Heaven and it was One Hour Old

The Christmas moon shines clear and bright;
There were poor travellers such a night
Had neither fire nor candlelight.

One plucked them stars out of the sky
To show the road to travel by;
So that the ass go warily.

She had all Heaven safe in her hold,
Hidden within her mantles fold:
All Heaven and it was one hour old.

Her hair under, over Him spread
His spun gold coverlet and His bed,
Twined with his little golden head.

She sang and rocked Him to-and-fro
Such songs as little babies know,
With lullaby sweet and lulla lo.

He had no need of moons or suns,
Nor the gold-crested bird legions,
Singing their lauds and orisons.

The Christmas moon shows a cold beam:
He hath His mother she hath Him:
Together they sleep, together dream.

Bethlehem

WHERE man was all too marred with sin,
The ass, the ox were bidden in.
Where angels were unmeet to come
These humble entered Holydom.

“Their innocent eyes and full of awe
Saw the fulfilment of the law.
There in the stable with the beast
The Christmas Child hath spread His feast.

These gave their bed and eke their board
To be a cradle for their Lord.
Their honey-breath, their tears all mild,
Warmed in the cold the new-born Child.

These His adorers were before
The Kings and Shepherds thronged the door.
And where no angels knelt there kneeled
The innocent creatures of the field.

Bring Him Peace

THE Kings to the Stable
They brought sweet spice,
The gold and the silver,
And jewels of price.
But the Dove by the manger
She would not cease
Mourning so softly:
Bring Him Peace; bring Him Peace!
The Kings from the Orient
Brought nard and clove.
The Dove went mourning:
Bring Him Love; Bring Him Love.

What would content Him
In silver and gold,–
A new-born Baby
But one hour old?
Not myrrh shall please Him
Nor the ambergris,
What hath sweet savour
Of His mother’s kiss?

There is clash of battle,
And men hate and slay:
From the noise and the tumult
She hides Him away.
But His sleep is fitful
In His Mother’s breast,
The Dove goes mourning:
Give Him rest; give Him rest!

Old Song Re-Sung

I saw three ships a-sailing,
A-sailing on the sea,
The first her masts were silver,
Her hull was ivory.
The snows came drifting softly,
And lined her white as wool;
Oh, Jesus, Son of Mary,
Thy Cradle beautiful !

I saw three ships a-sailing,
The next was red as blood,
Her decks shone like a ruby,
Encrimsoned all her wood.
Her main-mast stood up lonely,
A lonely Cross and stark.
Oh, Jesus, Son of Mary,
Bring all men to that ark !

I saw three ships a-sailing.
The third for cargo bore
The souls of men redeemed,
That shall be slaves no more.
The lost beloved faces,
I saw them glad and free.
Oh, Jesus, Son of Mary,
When wilt thou come for me?

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