Written as the annual advent cantata for the church where I grew up, Peace UCC in Duluth, Minnesota, Holy Night was my channel for exploring places where I both took issue and still found meaning in the Christian story in which I was raised. As I matured and worked in many different churches and experienced different expressions of Christianity, many of its more wondrous elements failed to resonate with me. Rather than putting me in a state of awe, accounts of biblical miracles removed the religion from my sense of reality and frustrated my appreciation and affinity for the communal, spiritual, and ethical aspects of the faith.
For me, this was best exemplified in Easter: the literal rising from the dead. I could not believe in such a thing, it seemed far too fantastical and compared to the stark, harsh, and painful realities of Good Friday – sacrifice, suffering, and death – it felt hollow and unattainable. But Christmas, the miracle of birth, felt very real and immediate to me. In the birth of the holy child I could see the answer to the tale of death. It meant to me that we need not rely on the supernatural phenomenon of resurrection to defeat death; we defeat death on a daily base by welcoming and nurturing new life. The stories of Good Friday and Christmas became inextricably linked for me and this was solidified when I experienced a brand new expression of the Christian faith at Plymouth Congregational Church in Syracuse, NY when we lit candles and sang Silent Night on Good Friday, in a reminder of the salvation of birth that was to come following the suffering.
This formed the overall narrative of Holy Night, approaching advent texts both traditional and born from modern expression, there are always hints of the coming suffering, even amidst the advent exploration. Throughout this, there are many other themes that are explored: the waiting of advent in both pain and assurance, the joy of Christmas and wonder at its mystery, and the magnificence of motherhood. But, the final word is still of this greater Christian story, and the final movement allows all of its elements to coexist. The text is “Alleluia,” the traditional word of Easter and set to the tune of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” but hidden within texture in pieces is the tune of Silent Night, set in the key of G against the tune’s A minor, reminding us that birth will always return. It is the final phrase of that tune that gets the last say in the piece, assuring us to “sleep in heavenly peace” in the faith of goodness and life.
An Advent Cantata
Ensemble SATB with Baritone and Mezzo-Soprano Soloists, Alto Saxophone (or Clarinet), Flute, Horn in F, Organ, Piano, Violin, and optional Lever Harp
Available Versions SATB with Piano; SATB with Organ
Text The Catholic Mass
Cost Vocal Scores - $12 (minimum order 15),
Full Score - $50
Parts - $180
Production Package (30 VS, full score, and parts) - $525
Version with Piano or Organ - $15 (minimum order 15)
For alternate instrumentations or ordering packages, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.