Outline of this work
Opus 81 "Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity" was composed in the period 1925-1927, and won for Cyril Rootham a prestigious Carnegie Award in 1928.
The work is scored for soloists (soprano, tenor, baritone), chorus, semi-chorus of boys and orchestra. The programme notes from this 1962 performance were written by the composer's son Jasper and can be downloaded as a PDF file (24Mb). The concert programme also contains the entire lyrics of Milton's poem.
CBR's "Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity" was beautifully typeset as a result of winning the Carnegie award, and this original edition is still available for hire from Stainer & Bell. The work carries the catalogue number HL167 in their Hire Library.
This historic first recording of CBR's "Ode" Op.81 features the Cambridge University Musical Society, conducted by David Willcocks. The recording was made at a concert given in the Chapel at King's College, Cambridge, on 28 November 1962. The soloists were Honor Sheppard (soprano), Wilfred Brown (tenor) and John Lawrenson (bass).
The total duration is just over 42 minutes. There was a technical problem part-way through the recording, involving the disconnection of one of the microphones. Because of this, the soloists sound rather distant in the latter part of the performance. In addition, this recording has been recovered from an LP once belonging to Jasper Rootham. The record has been played many, many times and is slightly damaged in places. We are very grateful to Samsound for restoring this unique recording.
CBR's "Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity" was first performed on 13 June 1930 in a performance by the Cambridge University Music Society choir and orchestra, conducted by the composer. A performance in Gloucester at the 1934 Three Choirs Festival brought further acclaim, and the 1975 Vernon Handley recording (see below) was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 18 December 1975 and 23 December 1980.
Available on CD
As part of the centenary celebration of Rootham's birth, the Nativity Ode was also broadcast on Radio 3 on 18 December 1975: on that recording Vernon Handley conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers and Trinity Boys Choir.
This 1975 recording is now available as part of the Itter Broadcast Collection on the Lyrita label as catalogue REAM2118 through Presto Classical: this is a 2-CD set which also includes Rootham's Symphony No 2 (Op.97) recorded in 1984. Here is a link to Presto Classical's informative page about the CD set:
• Cyril Rootham: Op.81 Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity and Op.97 Symphony No 2 in D major