Some little-known facts about the carol ‘Awake Arise’

In 2017 Robin King, from Newcastle, discovered that the title track of our CD, Awake, arise, Good Christians, which we had thought was anonymous, was actually written by the children’s writer Mary Botham Howitt (1799-1888), who wrote The Spider and the Fly

Mary Botham was born in Coleford, Gloucestershire where her father was a mining engineer in the Forest of Dean coalfield.  She married William Howitt and for a time lived in Heanor, Derbyshire, but then moved to Nottingham where William’s family were in business.  William later sold his share of the business and the couple moved to London, both to write full-time.  They later spent time travelling and living in Europe. Mary died in Switzerland while on holiday. She had been living in Italy for a number of years.

Robin, who spent most of his career working in the Registrar’s Office at Newcastle University, found the poem in Mary’s book Hymns and Fireside Verses (Darton and Clark, London, 1839) in the Special Collections at Newcastle University Library – it’s the last-but-one poem in the book.  There’s also a copy at Sheffield Hallam University, and you can see a scanned copy of the book in the US Library of Congress.  You can use the link below to read Mary’s poem.

Mary Botham Howitt – Awake Arise – A Christmas Carol

The carol also appears as No 53 in “88 Favourite Carols and Hymns for Christmas” published by William Walker & Sons of Otley, West Riding.  This is undated, but since it contains reference to the publishers’ catalogue being obtained on receipt of a penny stamp, it must be no earlier than the 1840s when the Penny Post was introduced by Rowland Hill.  This ties in with the original publication of “Awake, arise, good Christians'” in 1839 and a number of other carols whose earliest known references date from the 1840s or 1850s.  Robin believes it is probably from the later 1850s or after as it contains the five verses of James Montgomery’s original 1816 version of “Angels from the Realms of Glory” where Montgomery writes of Angels, Shepherds, Sages, Saints and Sinners.  After Montgomery died (1854) the Sinners verse either was not printed or was replaced by a verse from one of Montgomery’s other hymns.

The version of Mary’s carol that is sung in the Sheffield Carolling tradition is attributed to William Mount, but three other versions were published in America, by W.F. Sherwin in 1871, Karl Reden in 1875, and Charles Lewis Hutchins in 1916.  The last two stick closely to Mrs Howitt’s words (not all verses are included), but the Sherwin version has more radical changes. 

Anthems, Hymns and Gloria for Brass Band

In 2019 the Chorus recorded John Rutter’s Gloria with Black Dyke Band – and the CD on which it is features reached the Number One spot in the Classic FM Specialist Classical Albums charts in October 2020, only two weeks after it’s release by Naxos.

The CD Anthems, Hymns and Gloria for Brass Band , was recorded in St Oswald’s Church on Bannerdale Road in Sheffield. Directed by Professor Nicholas Childs and Chorus Music Director Darius Battiwalla, the CD was featured as Album of the Week on the Classic FM radio station, and rapidly moved up the chart over the following week.

The CD features eleven tracks composed by Rutter and arranged for brass band by Belgian conductor Luc Vertommen. It includes many of the English choral composer’s most famous works, including the Pie Jesu from his 1985 Requiem, and This is the Day composed for the wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

John Rutter’s Gloria was composed in 1974 for choir, brass, percussion and organ, with an alternative version for choir and orchestra. Described as “exalted, devotional and jubilant”, it was Rutter’s first commission from the US. Structured in three movements and based on the Gloria from the Latin mass, it was always intended as a concert piece.

Buy Anthems on Black Dyke Band website

Buy Anthems via Naxos

Read more about the CD:

Chorus CD tops the charts!

Chorus feature on Black Dyke Band CD

News

Tis the season…….

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Sheffield Telegraph

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus are determined that this year will be no different.  To ensure their customary seasonal cheer endures, they have had to be rather inventive, since their usual joyous concert with over two-hundred musicians on stage and thousand-strong audiences at Sheffield’s City Hall, would certainly not comply with the current social distancing guidelines.

“When I was asked to present the Chorus’s Christmas Carol Concert this December, I admit, I was rather surprised, especially when I heard it would still include over a hundred voices and the full Black Dyke Band”, explained the choir’s new Patron Petroc Trelawny. One of the best known voices on BBC Radio 3 and with over 17 years introducing the BBC Proms, Petroc joined as a Patron earlier in the year, and had been due to present the choir’s annual carol concert at the City Hall, now abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions. ‘The choir’s carol concert in Sheffield has kicked-off my Christmas for a few years now, and I’m absolutely delighted to become their Patron – and to be able to join in the festivities again by recording a contribution from home’.

Like so many musicians, Chorus members and the Black Dyke Band have had to get to grips with technology, and were tasked by the choir’s Music Director, Darius Battiwalla, to record themselves singing and playing, so a virtual choir and band could be created.  It’s obviously taken a bit of getting used to, but they do seem to have risen to the challenge remarkably well. 

Discussing the singers, “It’s actually rather fitting now I think about it” remarked Petroc. As presenter for the concert, he was particularly talking about one of the pieces specially commissioned for the choir’s first YouTube broadcast – a new version of the 16th century carol Resonet in Laudibus, arranged for brass band and chorus by Darius.  “In past centuries, people would have gathered in kitchens and round fireplaces to make music together, singing festive carols during dark evenings, so 2020 is just a high-tech version of some of the old traditions”. 

“We are absolutely thrilled that Petroc is now to be one of our Patrons.  As a prominent radio presenter of great experience, I’m sure a good number of us could have done with a few tips about recording techniques” quipped Rachel Copley, President of the Chorus, rather dryly. “But more seriously, this year, more than ever, we need to ensure we bring light and joy into people’s homes.  We’ve all been keen to take on the steep learning curve needed to ensure we can still present quality music now, and be ready to perform again live when we all come back together in 2021.”

Link to article in the Sheffield Telegraph Tuesday 15 December 2020

Listen to the virtual carol concert

Previous News Items

Tuesday 15 December 2020 ‘Tis the season…..

20 October 2020 Chorus CD tops the charts!

21 July 2020 Music Director gives on-line recital for Yorkshire Day

21 July 2020 lockdown performance of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus music director’s new arrangement for Handel’s Messiah

6 July 2020 Music Director’s beautiful Messiah arrangement

28 June 2020 Chorus starts on-line rehearsals

18 June 2020 Music Director joins choral greats in highlighting challenges faced by choirs

16 June 2020 The Guardian – Covid-19 has silences choirs

18 May 2020 Chorus supports its locked-down musicians

23 March 2020 Concerts postponed and rehearsals cancelled

2 February 2020 Chorus to sing Messiah with French and German visitors

2019

17 December 2019 REVIEW: Sheffield’s Christmas concert tradition

16 December 2019 Carol wins Classic FM competition

15 December 2019 Sheffield Telegraph – Chorus in finals of national carol competition

14 November 2019 REVIEW – ‘Beautifully and intricately rendered by the choir’

8 November 2019 Bring a Man Night

2 November 2019 Chorus to present Bochum gift to Lord Mayor

22 October 2019 Chorus feature on Black Dyke Band CD

28 September 2019 Chorus kicks off BBC Music Day

23 Sept 2019 Chorus kick off BBC Music Day on Fargate

12 June 2019 REVIEW Holy Face Sheffield Telegraph

 
 

07 April 2019 Bach’s compendium; SPC /Royal Northern Sinfonia, City Hall

14 March 2019 Women centre stage – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall

5 Feb 2019 Press release from Bochum, Germany: Mayor Erika Stahl receives Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus

1 Feb 2019 Chorus members sing Messiah in Germany

2018

28 Dec New Year’s Honour for local choir President

13 Dec 2018 Chorus Hat trick

6 Dec 2018 Excellent programme from the Chorus

26 Oct 2018 Composer thrilled with recording

28 July 2018 Yorkshire Post celebrates publication of 1911 World Tour Book

23 July 2018 Chorus members sing in France during World Cup

20 July 2018 Tour de France for Sheffield Choir

03 July 2018 Chorus prepares to deliver French mini tour

14 June 2018 Up Close and Personal

11 June 2018 Audience thrilled by Rossini and original Mustel harmonium

31 May 2018 Chorus and harmonium in perfect harmony

11 May 2018 ‘Outstanding’ – Chorus ends Mahler tour on high note

30 April 2018  Review: Bruckner Orchester Linz, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, four stars

30 April 2018 Chorus sing a ‘blazing’ Mahler 2 in Edinburgh

29 April 2018 ‘Assertive Mahler’ Simon Thompson, Seen and Heard International

12 Feb 2018 Chorus sings with Sheffield mezzo soprano

3 Feb 2018 World premiere ‘an emotive journey’

12 Jan 2018 Chorus on journey to Paradise

2017

11 Dec 2017 Calypso Carol on Classic FM

15 Oct 2017 Composer thrilled with premiere of his new work

3 July 2017 Chorus records new CD

6 April 2017 Stairs? No problem!

24 April 2017 Open Letter from the Chair: The relevance of classical music.

20 March 2017 It’s a fact – Singing is good for you!

pre-2016

16 May 2016 140th birthday celebrations

16 Feb 2016 What’s your ‘Fantasy Concert’?

18 Oct 2015 Sisters Steal Away

15 May 2015 Now on sale: ‘Awake, Arise! A Yorkshire Christmas Collection for Brass and Voices‘, our exciting CD of Christmas music

18 Feb 2013 Rachmaninov – will Chorus be reaching for the vodka?

8 Oct 2012 Free choral workshops and a welcome return for Handel’s Messiah

8 Aug 2012 Free choral workshops and a year full of singing

17 June 2012 Olympic Dreams – Will it be Singin’ in The Rain or Mr Blue Skies?

16 Apr 2012 Contemporary composers take centre stage

16 Apr 2012 New community links in Sheffield

3 April 2012 Bronte Mass ‘impressive’

12 Feb 2012 Alight: Eclectic music lines up to take centre stage as part of the Cultural Olympiad

13 Jan 2012 Scaling The Heights – Singclude Breaks Down Barriers For Disabled Singers

24 Feb 2011 Three-fold choral debut

22 Nov 2010 Songs of Praise – Chorus celebrate 75th Anniversary year with audience of over 2 million

28 Oct 2010 The Dream of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus

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