Gold and Spices
Alison Willis

Composer Alison Willis
Text Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Voicing SATB, a cappella
Topics Christmas, Epiphany, Lessons and Carols
Lectionary usage Epiphany
Price $2.75 (U.S.)
Length 2' 45" Released 1/2021
Catalog no. 405-302
Difficulty Mod. difficult

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"Gold and Spices" was written for Reading Phoenix Choir in 2018. The choir sings from memory and this influenced the use of patterns and repetitions within the piece, particularly the opening motif.

The text is taken from Christina Rossetti’s beautiful poem "They Have Brought Gold and Spices" (1852) which tells of the three Kings and is therefore particularly suited to carol services, Epiphany and All Saints.

The piece fluctuates between excitement at the arrival of the kings with their wondrous gifts, incense and precious stuffs and ivory and more reflective sections wondering what the singer can possibly bring instead.

"Gold and Spices" was premiered at Reading Minster (UK) by the Reading Phoenix Choir as part of their Carol Concert in December 2019.


review copy

"An excerpt from Christina Rossetti’s larger poem, They Have Brought Gold and Spices, makes for a jubilant Epiphany-tide carol. Sprightly motifs and a flexible metrical landscape convey rapture in the appearance of the Christ child. Aside from overlapping entrances of the jagged opening pattern, the choir operates mainly in homophonic textures, clearly enunciating the beautiful poetry. A poignant section in slower motion with surprising harmonies answers a darker hint in the text before returning to the opening material in joyful answer. Modest ranges and lack of part division mitigates some of the difficulties of the mixed meter and rapid succession of compositional ideas. This medium-difficult anthem will fit more accomplished ensembles in liturgy and concert settings." -AAM Journal, Nov. 2021

They have brought gold and spices to my King,
incense and precious gifts and ivory;
Oh holy Mother mine, what can I bring
so that my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing.
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
spake to my heart and answered in my heart:
Sing, saith he to the heavens, to earth, Rejoice!

–Christina Rossetti, 1852, alt.


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