Barlow Bradford Publishing
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Series: Signature Winter Series
Format: Double Choir (SSAA and SATB)
Accompaniment: Piano and Strings
Donald M. Skirvin
Text: Bliss Carman, Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace), A.E. Housman, Robert Bridges, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Morris, and Thomas Campion
Performance time - ca. 15:20

Note: There is a 16-copy minimum for this title.

Choral Score or Orchestration
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Wintertide is a choral work in three movements, specially commissioned by the Seattle Choral Company for a concert of the same name in 2016. It can be performed antiphonally in two ways: a smaller women’s choir alongside a larger mixed choir, or a double chorus with equal forces in both ensembles. The recording features the first setup, with a guest women’s choir singing with a mixed choir.
Wintertide explores the multifaceted nature of winter, its temporal, spiritual, physical, and emotional transformations, painting pictures of icy landscapes, vibrant festivities, and leisurely activities that fill the long, dark winter nights, all illuminated by firelight and candlelight. The lyrics are diverse and range from a meditation on the winter season by the Canadian poet, Carman Bliss, selected quatrains by the Latin poet Horace (with a macaronic translation into English by A.E. Housman), a sixteenth-century poem by Thomas Campion, lines from Longfellow’s poem, “Woods in Winter,” to poems and couplets by Robert Bridges and William Morris (with a few edits of my own).

I. When Winter Comes

Winter by Bliss Carman

WHEN winter comes along the river line
And Earth has put away her green attire,
With all the pomp of her autumnal pride,
The world is made a sanctuary old,
Where Gothic trees uphold the arch of gray,
And gaunt stone fences on the ridge’s crest
Stand like carved screens before a crimson shrine,
Showing the sunset glory through the chinks.
There, like a nun with frosty breath, the soul,
Uplift in adoration, sees the world
Transfigured to a temple of her Lord;
While down the soft blue-shadowed aisles of snow
Night, like a sacristan with silent step,
Passes to light the tapers of the stars.

Diffugere Nives, by Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace) from Odes (IV.vii), (two quatrains)

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis
Arboribusque comae;

Mutat terra vices et decrescentia ripas
Flumina praetereunt.
. . .
Frigora mitescunt Zephyris, ver proterit aestas
Interitura, simul
Pomifer autumnus fruges effuderit, et mox
Bruma recurrit iners.
. . .
English translation of two quatrains of Diffugere Nives by
A.E. Housman

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.
. . .

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs. . . .

II. Crown Winter with Green

Crown winter with green (poem XXVI) by Robert Bridges

Crown Winter with green,
And give him good drink
To physic his spleen
Or ever he think.

His mouth to the bowl,
His feet to the fire;
And let him, good soul,
No comfort desire.

So merry he be,
I bid him abide:
And merry be we
This good Yuletide.

Woods in Winter by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (selected quatrains: 1, 3, 6, 7)

When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.
. . .
Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.
. . .
But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.

III. Dreams of Gold

Couplet from Of the Wooing of Hallbiorn the Strong by William Morris (edited by the composer)
. . .
Nights long I lay my love beside;
And dark are the days of wintertide.
. . .
Poem XI by Robert Bridges (partial)

When the winter eves are early and cold,
The firelight hours are a dream of gold.
And so I sit here night by night,
In rest and enjoyment of love’s delight.
Poem from The Third book of Airs by Thomas Campion

Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours;
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o’erflow with wine,
Let well-turned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep’s leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense
With lovers’ long discourse;
Much speech hath some defense,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys,
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.

1 - Conductor Score (Full Score)

1 - Piano

4 - Violin 1
4 - Violin 2
3 - Viola
2 - Violoncello
2 - Double Bass


I. When Winter Comes

II. Crown Winter with Green
III. Dreams of Gold