The Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition has returned for 2017, with amateur composers challenged to write a new carol for SATB choir set to the words of a 15th-century carol: Sir Christemas.
Entries will be judged by a panel including Judith Weir and David Hill, with a shortlist of six being performed live on air by the BBC Singers. The ultimate winner will be decided by listener vote and played on Radio 3 on Christmas Day.
The exact origins of this joyful carol are unknown, but one of the first people to write it down was Sir Richard Smerte, a 15th-century chorister-turned-vicar who lived at Plymtree, near Exeter, and was Devon’s first recorded musician. His version became known to a wider audience in 1928, when Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Dearmur and Martin Shaw included it in their influential Oxford Book of Carols.
Composers must submit their work (for SATB choir with or without piano accompaniment, up to four minutes long) by 1 November 2017. In order to enter, you must not be a professional composer and should not have had a piece of music commercially commissioned or published within the last five years.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell.
Who is there that singeth so,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell?
I am here, Sir Christemas.
Welcome, my lord Sir Christemas!
Welcome to us all, both more and less!
Come near, Nowell.
Dieu vous garde, beaux sieurs, tidings I you bring:
A maid hath borne a child full young,
The which causeth you for to sing:
Christ is now born of a pure maid;
In an ox-stall he is laid,
Wherefore sing we all at a brayde:
Buvez bien par toute la compagnie,
Make good cheer and be right merry,
And sing with us now joyfully: