Advent Antiphon

Advent Antiphon

15th November 1978 | For Wycliffe Baptist Church
'Lion and Lamb' by

What is it?

Advent Antiphon is a straightforward piece for 4-part (SATB) choir and organ. It’s quite short (about one minute) and is intended to be sung as an introit to any church service during the seasons of Advent or Christmas.


The lyrics are taken from the fourth prophecy of Balaam, as they appear in the Bible (Numbers 24):

There shall come a star out of Jacob
A sceptre shall rise out of Israel
Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion



Wycliffe Baptist Church

Wycliffe Baptist Church, Reading
Photo credit: Betty Chilufya

In November 1978 my wife and I were members of Wycliffe Baptist Church in Reading, which I had been attending since leaving university the previous year. I was already playing piano at church services and Geraldine Candlin, who was organising the Christmas Carol Service, asked if I could compose a setting of the words from Numbers 24, specifically to open the service, without announcement. So I came up with Advent Antiphon. I wasn’t trying to do anything revolutionary, reasoning that people would appreciate something that sounded fairly traditional rather that something startlingly original. It has a decidedly medieval feel thanks to the use of a dominant minor chord at one point, also faint echoes of Sir Hubert Parry's music in the final soaring "Amen".

The singers mastered it quickly and sang it accompanied by organist Peter Cima. I can't remember much of that occasion, now forty-four years ago, but I do remember a momentary stunned silence from the congregation when we finished it!

The piece then lay dormant until I resurrected it for the 2015 carol service at St Thomas’ Church in Trowbridge, England, when we performed it unaccompanied: it works perfectly well with or without the organ.

During the intervening years I made only one adjustment to the music. My original version had required the organist to do a one-octave glissando on the organ pedal board - and to his credit, Peter Cima accomplished that well. However, having tried it myself a few times on various instruments, I found it difficult to play accurately enough for my liking and without the organ pedal board making rather too much clatter in the process. So in my latest version that glissando is played with the left hand using standard fingering for an F-major scale.

St Thomas Church, Trowbridge, Carol Service

St Thomas Church, Trowbridge, Carol Service

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