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Prepared for the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive by Paul Howarth.
Sullivan wrote relatively little music specifically for Christmas - which is surprising since our idea of what constitutes "traditional Christmas celebrations" is, to a large extent, a Victorian invention!
His original compositions amount to four carols: "I Sing the Birth" of 1868, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" of 1871, "Upon the Snow-clad Earth" of 1876, and "Hark! What Mean those Holy Voices" written shortly before he began work on "Princess Ida" in 1883. The scores are presented here in the hope that, in making them more widely available than they have been for some time, we may encourage their inclusion in carol concerts again.
The remaining carols - including the best known piece included here, the tune "Noel" - are arrangements or adaptations of traditional melodies.
I have included the anthem "Hearken Unto Me" written for Advent, the season of the church's year immediately before Christmas, since it seems to me to be a particularly good example of Sullivan's church music with its rousing final section.
Page updated 2 September 2004