The Angel Gabriel
Sarah MacDonald

Composer Basque carol, arr. Sarah MacDonald
Text "Birjina gaztettobat zegoen," tr. Sabine Baring-Gould
Voicing SATB a cappella
Topics Annunciation, Biblical Names (Gabriel, Mary), Christmas, Magnificat
Scripture reference Luke 1:26-38
Lectionary usage
Annunciation, Advent 4B, Christmas
Price $2.50 (U.S.)
Length 2' 30" Released 1/2021
Catalog no. 405-203
Difficulty Mod. easy

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A pensive setting of the familiar Basque carol, for a cappella choir. Easily rehearsed, and effective for Lessons and Carols service.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.
"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,"
"most highly favoured Lady," Gloria.

"For known a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee."
"Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,"
"Most highly favoured Lady," Gloria.

Of her Emmanuel the Christ was born
in Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn.
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
Most highly favoured Lady. Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said.
"My soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name,"
Most highly favoured Lady, Gloria!

Trad. Basque carol, "Birjina gaztettobat zegoen,"
tr. Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924)

review copy

"Sabine Baring-Gould’s familiar carol translation, along with the Basque tune long associated with it, provide the basis for this fairly straightforward arrangement. Unison tenors and basses carry the melody at the beginning accompanied by sopranos and altos in a countermelody flowing mainly in parallel thirds. Sopranos divide in a macaronic "Ave Maria!" phrase as basses drop out for the last phrase of the verse. The final refrain of "Gloria" builds from bottom to top with overlapping entrances of the melodic phrase. The second verse repeats the musical treatment of the first without alteration other than the text. Sopranos and altos begin verse three with tenors and basses picking up the accompanimental penchant for movement in parallel thirds and using the text "Magnificat anima mea Dominum." The lower voices also introduce duple beat subdivision, contributing a slight rhythmic drive to the lilting compound meter. The final verse begins with full choir in unison in emphatic declamation, and the organic breaking into harmony grows naturally from the rhetoric. As tenors and basses claim the final phrases of melody. The sopranos repeat the "Ave Maria" of verse one while altos echo the tenor statement of "Magnificat" from verse three. This collage organization has a neatly intensifying effect building to a fitting climax. The stacked entrances of "Gloria" reappear one final time with a last rhythmic intensification on the repeated "Gloria" ending on a widely spaced open fifth chord. This arrangement is well within the grasp of most amateur ensembles and is a superb arrangement of a popular carol." -The AAM Journal, Nov. 2021


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