Commissioned and first performed by The Kelvedon Singers/Chris Phelps, 11 December 2011, Wakes Colne
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The Snow in the Street is taken from The Earthly Paradise (1868-70), a collection of poems by the Wathamstow-born poet, textile designer and prominent member of the English Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris (1834-1896). The poem tells of some travellers ('outlanders') calling on a household on a snowy winter's evening and recounting how, when they were in a foreign land, they met three shepherds who described to them the scene of the nativity. A wintery refrain ('the snow in the street and the wind at the door: minstrels and maids, stand forth on the floor') runs throughout the poem, evoking a suitably Christmas-like mood.
My setting is in lilting triple time, and much of its material is based on the infectious, dance-like rhythm of the words of the refrain. Starting quietly and mysteriously, the music builds and grows in excitement as the travellers' tale unfolds. In the central section of the piece, three male soloists, representing the shepherds, sing in alternation with the rest of the choir, culminating in a joyous climax for the whole choir ('news of a fair and marvellous thing') before the music subsides and returns to the mysterious material of the opening. The Snow in The Street was commissioned by the Kelvedon Singers, to whom it is also dedicated.