A Ketterling Carol


Words by Sara Teasdale
SATB, piano, and bassoon
Published by Fresh Ayre Music
Commissioned by the Ketterling family for the Choral Arts Ensemble of Rochester, MN.

Sara Teasdale’s poem first attracted me by its contrast between the familiar stories of shepherds and magi and the priorities of a sleepy newborn. The poet gathers pilgrims (and, presumably, their hosts and entourages) from the north, south, east, and heaven above, and has them converge on the stable in Bethlehem, where the infant Jesus demonstrates that the desires of babies are not those of adults by falling asleep.

Each stanza of the carol represents a different group of pilgrims (kings, shepherds, wise men, angels) and is sung by a different voice part. The music is designed to represent the character of each group, and the melodies combine contrapuntally in Renaissance-scented harmony.

The role of the bassoon is purposefully ambiguous, sometimes acting as landscape or lighting, sometimes enhancing the qualities of the characters in the narrative. At the opening of the final verse, it attempts to single-handedly portray an unruly mob of people and animals. If nothing else, it brings an air of whimsy to a traditionally reverent story.

Perusal Score (click to view)

SKU: FAM-0111-01 Categories: ,


The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs—
They had not any gold.

The wise men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door,
The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “A Ketterling Carol”

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like…