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The Christmas season is a time of lights - ranging from holiday decorations to candles lit in church, and most, profoundly, to the Holy Light shining above the Nativity. The universal image has inspired the Carols of Light.
The music opens with high, sparkling patterns described as rays of light. During this section, it is suggested that candles (or a small, battery light) be lit and placed near the front of the church, or on top of the piano.The first carol, The Holly and the Ivy, is delicate and flowing. A favorite line from the lyrics inspires the music: The rising of the sun, and the running of the deer. Scales rise throughout. And the final, high notes sound as a single star.
The star guides We Three Kings, as the Magi move quietly with reverence beneath the mystery of the starlight. Star patterns (high arpeggios) are often inserted into the carol melody. Guide us to thy perfect light. This movement ends with a single star tremolo.
Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella bears the light reference in its title. The stable is dark, and the good folk of the village want to see The Child! A favorite line from these lyrics is: Hush! hush! see how fast he slumbers! The musical phrases are played very delicately and quietly, so as to not awaken Baby Jesus! [The astute listener may hear hints of Away in a Manger. This carol, with its Nativity setting and focus on the sleeping Child, was a natural companion.]
At the end, candlelight sparkles as the music rises to the heights. The little rolled chord in the last measure may be a time when the candles may be extinguished.
Notes by the composer