An Earthly Tree, composed by Stephanie Martin
World premiere by Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Festival of Carols, December 4 & 5, 2018
Here is what Canadian composer Stephanie Martin has to say about this work:
An Earthly Tree entwines the well-known Gregorian Christmas chant ‘Hodie Christus Natus Est’ in 21st-century harmonies. Similarly, the 16th-century poem is a complex weave of hidden meanings. The earthly tree is Mary who bares a heavenly fruit, her Son Jesus. The case of clay is our humanity, formed of the earth, and the crown immortal encased therein is Jesus’ divinity.
Stephanie Martin was commissioned by St. John Cantius Church in Chicago to compose this piece as homage to Healey Willan in this year commemorating 50 years since his death. Our friends in Chicago have graciously allowed the first performance to happen here in Toronto with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
The text is from an anonymous English 16th-century poem
An earthly tree a heav’nly fruit it bear, a case of clay contain’d a crown immortal.
A crown of crowns, a King whose cost and care redeem’d poor Man, whose race before was thrall
To death, to doom, to pains of ever lasting, By His sweet death, scorns, stripes, and often fasting.
A star above the stars, a sun of light Whose blessed beams this wretched earth be spread
With hope of Heav’n and of God’s Son the sight Which in our flesh and sinful soul lay dead.
O faith, O hope, O joys renown’d for ever, O lively light that deathless shall persever.
Then let us sing the lullabies of sleep, to this sweet Babe, born to awake us all
From drowsy sin that made old Adam weep, and by his fault gave to mankind the Fall.
For lo! this day, the birth day, day of days, Summons our songs to give Him laud and praise.