Unaccompanied carols

Browse sixteen unaccompanied carols for mixed voice choirs. Discover fresh arrangements of familiar 

favourites as well as original new compositions.

Sleep Softly Now

Ian Assersohn

This beautiful setting of a medieval English text is simple yet effective, written in Assersohn's clear and approachable style. With tender 'lullay, lullow's, lilting phrases, and gentle modal inflections, this hushed lullaby paints a serene picture of the baby Jesus at rest.

SATB unaccompanied

3 ½ minutes

Easy

Published April 2021

Hail, heavenly beam

David Bednall

Hail, heavenly beam is a powerful and joyful setting of a 9th-century advent prayer. Coloured by rich harmonies and tonal shifts, the piece opens briskly before propelling itself towards a rousing conclusion characterised by faster, more exuberant melodic lines and expressive melismas.

SATB unaccompanied

3 ½ minutes

Easy - Moderately Difficult

Published April 2020

And all the stars looked down

Alan Bullard

This is a striking setting of a poem by Gilbert Keith Chesterton, characterised by antiphonal exchanges between the upper and lower voices, and rich, ever-changing harmonies. Originally published in The Ivy and the Holly: 14 contemporary carols.

SSATBarB unaccompanied

3 ½ minutes

Easy - Moderately Difficult

Published June 2020

The Gracious Gift

Alan Bullard

This gentle carol sets a well-known text, 'Balulalow', that paints an image of Mary singing a lullaby to Jesus. Bullard's gentle sways and lilting rhythms reflect the story, while soft dynamics and warm harmonies create a tender quality throughout. The third verse begins emphatically, praising the 'gift' of the New Year, before finishing on a tranquil, contemplative note. Originally published in Alan Bullard Carols.


SATB unaccompanied

1 ½ minutes

Easy

Published May 2020

Cradle Song

Bob Chilcott

William Blake's poem, 'A Cradle Song', is brought to life in this elegant setting by Chilcott. The gentle, recurring melody is passed from sopranos to altos, supported by 'oo's and 'ah's in the lower voices. In the last section, the congregation (or semi-chorus) joins in with 'Away in a manger', which is skillfully weaved into the vocal texture as a countermelody. This is truly a carol for everyone.

SATB unaccompanied with optional congregation

4 minutes

Easy

Published May 2020

The Sleeping Child

Bob Chilcott

In this gentle lullaby, Chilcott sets words by poet Charles Bennett that reflect upon the promise held in the dreams of a sleeping child, a life that has just begun. The choir opens and closes the carol, providing a rich cushion of harmony on which the soprano soloist sits as they narrate the central section through an arching, soaring melody.

Soprano solo and SATB (with divisions) unaccompanied

3 minutes

Easy

Published May 2021

Brightest Star

Cecilia McDowall

Brightest Star sets a powerful text by Seán Street that describes the call for assistance made by the occupied Channel Islands in 1944 and the response of the Red Cross ship, the Vega, which came to their aid. The poet draws parallels between this story and the light and hope of the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany.


The bleak wartime conditions are portrayed by dissonant harmony and downward sliding phrases; extracts from the Bailiff of Jersey's letter of appeal, sung by the lower voices, draw attention to the gravity of the situation. In contrast, the upper voices bring an ethereal quality to the texture, with closing phrases that are suggestive of the traditional French carol Les anges dans nos campagnes ('Angels, from the realms of glory').


SSATB unaccompanied

4 minutes

Moderately Difficult

Published April 2020

Lo! He slumbers in his manger

Cecilia McDowall

McDowall's setting of Isaac Watts' Cradle Hymn is beautifully tender, coloured by its rich harmonies, suspensions, and chromatic notes. The melodies are complemented by sustained 'oo's and 'ah's and rock gently with the changing time signatures, before ending unexpectedly in the tonic major.

SATB unaccompanied

2 ½ minutes

Easy

Published May 2020

See amid the winter's snow

Becky McGlade

This setting of Edward Caswall's well-known text shows all the hallmarks of McGlade's characteristic style, with changing time signatures, beguiling chromaticisms, and a beautiful, fluid melody. Changing metres give a sense of fluidity, while a scintillating climax on 'Peace on earth' forms the centre of the work.

SATB unaccompanied

4 ½ minutes

Moderately Difficult

Published April 2021

A spotless Rose

Becky McGlade

This setting of A spotless Rose reflects the wintry starkness of the fifteenth-century text through its minor key and bare upper-voice opening, while the warmth of the full voicing on the words 'light' and 'might' represents the coming of the Christ-Child.

SATB (with divisions) unaccompanied

2 ½ minutes

Moderately Difficult

Published May 2020

This endris night

Sarah Quartel

Sarah Quartel brings a fresh take on a familiar fifteenth-century text in this enchanting carol. The dialogue between Mary and the infant Jesus is woven to a beguiling folk-like melody, in 6 or 8 metre, through each of the voice parts, with each verse ending in the lilting refrain 'Lully, by by, lullay'. The carol may be sung unaccompanied, though for added sparkle there is an optional part for handbells (or percussion or organ). Also available in a version for upper voices.

SATB unaccompanied or with optional handbells (or percussion or organ)

3 minutes

Easy

Published May 2020

Gaudete!

Annabel Rooney

This is an upbeat original setting of the well-known Latin text. Rambunctious, hearty, and in a sophisticated modal style, it is suitable for both church and concert performance by experienced choirs.

SATB (with divisions) unaccompanied

2 minutes

Easy - Moderately Difficult

Published June 2021

Verbum caro factum est

John Sheppard, arr. Sally Dunkley

John Sheppard's Verbum caro factum est is perhaps the most magnificent of his Responds, as befits its Christmas context. The music alternates between polyphony and plainchant, and the text is one that lies at the very heart of the Christmas story: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us". The polyphony is scored for SATTBarB, covering a span of over three octaves, and in the final chord the top voice divides into three parts.


SATTBarB unaccompanied

6 minutes

Easy

Published November 2020

Take Away my Sorrow

Will Todd

With words by the composer, this tender piece expresses gratitude and awe for the redeeming power of the Christ-child. Replete with rich contrasting harmonies, the changing metre and effective phrasing build anticipation before the piece resolves into serenity.

SSATB unaccompanied

4 minutes

Easy - Moderately Difficult

Published June 2021

Coventry Carol

Roderick Williams

Intricate counterpoint and a continuo-style bassline bring a medieval flavour to Williams' arrangement of this much-loved carol. The gentle vocal lines build in texture throughout, with optional support from the accompaniment. Originally published in The Oxford Book of Flexible Carols, it is also available in a version for either SA or TB and optional accompaniment.

SATB and opt. piano or organ or melody instruments

2 minutes

Easy

Published June 2021

Come and dance

Toby Young

This is an energetic setting of a text by Jennifer Thorp that celebrates and encourages festivities during Christmas time. With a fast tempo, Young's lively melodies are full of syncopated rhythms and supported by colourful harmonies in the accompanying voices. A rhythmic ostinato throughout reinforces an alternative Christmas message from the poet: “oh come and dance”!

SATB unaccompanied

3 minutes

Moderately Difficult

Published May 2020

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