Monday, December 12, 2011

December 13

A Tender Shoot
performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

A tender shoot has started up from a root of grace,
as ancient seers imparted from Jesse's holy race:
It blooms without a blight, blooms in the cold mid-winter,
turning our darkness into light.

This shoot Isaiah taught us, from Jesse's root should spring;
The Virgin Mary brought us the branch of which we sing;
Our God of endless might gave her this child to save us,
Thus turning darkness into light.

The lyrics of this carol describe Christ as the ‘tender shoot’ that sprang from the root of Jesse, as written in the book of Isaiah, Chapter 11. These verses are a prophecy that are an important part of many celebrations of Lessons and Carols (including those at King's College Chapel, in Cambridge, England on Christmas Eve):

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:1-9)

Isaiah again returns to this imagery in Chapter 53, verse 2:

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

The carol, A Tender Shoot was written by the German pianist, conductor and composer Otto Goldschmidt (1829–1907). He settled in England in 1858 with his wife, the famous Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, who was nicknamed ‘The Swedish Nightingale’. The original German lyrics were translated into English by William Bartholomew (1793-1867). Interestingly, the carol was first made famous by its regular inclusion at the Advent Carol Services at St John's College, Cambridge under the direction of the late Dr. George Guest. One of the choir's most popular recordings of A Tender Shoot was made in the early 1960s.

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