I Syng of a Mayden
Kathleen Allan

Composer Kathleen Allan
Text Anonymous, 15th cent.
Voicing SATB, a cappella
Topics Annunciation, Christmas
Price $3.50 (U.S.)
Length 6' 15" Released 1/2020
Catalog no. 405-252
Difficulty Mod. easy

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Kathleen Allen has created a vibrant and distinctive setting of this familiar 15th century Christmas text. The music begins with a modal melody over a drone; this melody is developed with varied textures for each subsequent verse. Each refrain is a series of litany-like rhythmic repetitions that eventually become the accompaniment for the final verse. A light quasi-vocal percussion texture in the middle section imitates the sounds of bells. Fun and memorable, this carol is sure to be a favorite selection in any Christmas concert or series.

Performance by Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, B.C.
Donald Hunt, Director of Music


I syng of a mayden
that is makeles,
kyng of alle kynges
to here son che ches.

He came so stylle
there his moder was
as dew in aprylle,
that fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as the dew in aprille,
that fallyt on the flour.

He cam also stylle
þer his moder lay
as dew in Aprille,
that fallyt on the spray.;

Modera & mayden
was never non but che,
wel may swych a lady
Godes moder be.

–Anonymous, 15th cent.

I sing of a maiden
that is matchless,
King of all kings
for her son she chose.

He came as still
there his mother was
as dew in April
that falls on the grass.

He came as still
to his mother’s bower
as dew in April
that falls on the flower.

He came as still
where his mother lay
as dew in April
that falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
there was never one but she;
well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

review copy

"Canadian conductor and composer Kathleen Allan wrote this spirited setting of the anonymous fifteenth-century text for Christ Church Cathedral (Victoria, British Columbia). An original melody in the form of an Irish fiddle tune or other Northern European folk music is accompanied by wordless voices treated instrumentally in drones. At the conclusion of the first verse, the compound meter 12/8 is re-cast as 6/4 in compound meter, introducing an effective augmentation in something approximating a refrain. The melody reappears, bouncing from part to part with an increase in activity in the surrounding parts with a concomitant growth in the texture through divided voices. The melody then appears in canon at the space of a beat, with altos contributing a wordless counter melody. This layering effect becomes even more pronounced in the following section as sopranos introduce the thirteenth-century melody of Angelus ad virginem in percussive nonsense syllables. The melody enters on various pitch levels amidst a variety of melodic and accompanimental gestures, all loosely organized in an exuberant jumble. While the music is diatonic and tonally stable, the extensive part division and independence of the voices combine to make this anthem of medium difficulty. Its engaging idiom and cheerful mood will make it popular for choirs willing to invest the time to master its dance." -AAM Journal, Nov. 2021


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