As if to make up for the lack of work done on New Year’s Day, yesterday turned out to a real bonanza, divided into two halves. In the morning I revised the Blackheath Mass in preparation for its performance this coming Sunday morning at St. Mary Abbots, adding an extra bar to the Sanctus and uploading the score to the website. I also sent out my monthly news email and then spent a good hour and a half working on the new version of my website, and an intensive crash course in HTML it was too. The site is nearly ready to go, but I would rather have it completely done and publish it all at once rather than do it piecemeal.
Come the afternoon I managed to continue work on We Three Kings, whose journey is taking longer than anticipated. I do now have an unbroken strand from beginning to end, though, which means that I can now go about adding some flesh to the bones, although I know that there are going to be significant changes along the way, especially in the realm of the harmonies. There are some areas with which I am very happy, others where I know I am trying too hard. The trick is to admit to myself what is bad without trying to convince myself otherwise, and improve those moments. At present there are probably too many ideas in the piece, so some will have to go.
For the text I have gone back as much as possible to the original publication in the 1860s. It is clear that many variants have arisen, some probably by accident (“Worship him God most high” and “Worshipping God most high” or even “God on high”, for example), but there is one in particular which interests me, and which I have found in one publication, from 1918. In the verse which usually begins “Born a king on Bethlehem plain” one finds instead “Born a babe on Bethlehem plain”, which seems to make much more sense. It also avoids the clunky repetition of “King” only a couple of lines later – “King forever, ceasing never over us all to reign”. Although I prefer “babe” for several reasons, the repetition of “king” does not seem to have bothered John Hopkins Jr., the author, too much. The more I work on the text the less I am convinced that it is the greatest poetry ever written. Come to think of it, “Guide us to thy perfect light” does not make much sense either, but maybe that’s for another discussion.
The accompaniment remains to be fleshed out, and there are many sections of part-writing which need some urgent surgery, but I am gathering some of the momentum I had lost on this piece. Today I hope to squeeze in another decent session, even though I have some other things to get done. It would be nicely appropriate to finish it by Epiphany.