Christmas Genre: There is No Rose of Such Virtue


Another Christmas favorite that is worth looking at for researching its history and for listening is one that is one of the oldest on record. It is also a piece that has been rewritten many times but varied in melodic form.

There is No Rose is an old musical piece that celebrates the birth of Christ but in a form of a resurrection of life. It was first presented in 1420, at the time when the Renaissance was starting to take its form; the population was regenerating after the era of the Bubonic Plague wiped out half the population on the European continent, and with that, the era of peace was upon the population. Furthermore, the Renaissance ushered in the age of modernity and the revival of philosophy, religion and even music. The Carol was reportedly written by Trinity College in Manchester as one of thirteen carols, less than a century before the great Reformation under Martin Luther. While we don’t know who wrote this nor what the motive behind the work is about, the words written were in Middle English, appearing in four verses as follows:


There is no rose of sych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu,
Alleluia.For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space,
Res miranda.By that rose we may well see
That He is God in persons three,
Pares forma.
The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Gaudeamus.Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth,
Transeamus.Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,

Several composers have tried to interpret the piece in their own melodic terms. One of the most well-known composers was Benjamin Britten, who in 1942 wrote the piece in F-major with a climax in A-major in Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This was part of the Ceremony of Carols series that was sung by the Children’s Choir. The piece is below:

Another composer, who based his work on Britten, John Joubert, modernized the piece in 1954, where in A-flat major, the work begins with the soprano and alto sections, backed up by the tenor and bass sections later on in the piece. The piece does produce an emotion where the person listening to it, has a feeling of attachment to Baby Jesus. The piece is below:

Like in the Joubert text, this next piece, composed by Joel Martinson, is an accapella piece that is widely used at Christmas concerts. Unlike the Joubert piece, the Martinson piece features a more modern but balanced form where each section plays a key role, especially when switching chords between E-major and C-flat major:

The Martinson piece is used mainly for chamber choirs and has somewhat of a silent ending to each section. However, when looking at the next version by Philip Stopford, written in G-minor, it presents a feeling of the rise of the new age, with the birth of Jesus, and the word spreads in echos for miles on end:

The soprano section in this piece represents the angel sending the most important message to the people of Jesus’ arrival. After using several previous works for the Christmas concerts, Dr. René Clausen produced his own version of There is No Rose in 2007, which featured a combination of voice and orchestra. Here the piece produces a balance in unison  between the two groups, while staying in major chord, starting with G-major:

But not all pieces necessarily have to be produced in chorus form. Some of the variants can include a soloist with background music throughout the entire piece. In the case like this example by the singer Sting, sometimes some pop music can bring a twist into this traditional piece:

One can go on forever looking at other musical variants of this piece, but one can conclude that no matter how the music is put together, the lyrics have remained the same and has had the same message just like over 600 years ago: To deliver the message of the birth of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. And His role would reshape the way we think of religion even to this day: To bring love to all, regardless of background and region.

So sit back and enjoy the pieces that are presented here and think about the role of Jesus in your lives and how he made a difference, especially as we celebrate his birthday, known today as Christmas. ❤ After all we have a lot to be thankful for because of Him. 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018


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