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VOCES8: The Three Kings by Jonathan Dove

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Published on May 23, 2019

VOCES8 performs 'The Three Kings' by the group's Composer-in-Residence, Jonathan Dove. This video was filmed in St Stephen Walbrook Church in London.

A note from Jonathan:
"Dorothy L. Sayers’ poem The Three Kings was suggested to me as a carol text by Stephen Cleobury. Sayers achieves a surprising emotional power and mystery by portraying the youngest king, the nearest to childhood, as the saddest, bringing a gift of myrrh which anticipates Christ’s passion and death; it is the oldest king, nearest to the grave, who brings golden toys. I have tried to catch this surprise in the music: the first two verses are simple and ballad like, while the third verse suddenly opens up like a treasure chest of twinkling gold."

TEXT
The first king was very young,
O balow, balow la lay,
With doleful ballads on his tongue,
O balow, balow la lay,
He came bearing a branch of myrrh
Than which no gall is bitterer,
O balow, balow la lay,
Gifts for a baby King, O.

The second king was a man in prime,
O balow, balow la lay,
The solemn priest of a solemn time,
O balow, balow la lay,
With eyes downcast and reverent feet
He brought his incense sad and sweet,
O balow, balow la lay,
Gifts for a baby King, O.

The third king was very old,
O balow, balow la lay,
Both his hands were full of gold,
O balow, balow la lay,
Many a gaud and glittering toy,
Baubles brave for a baby boy,
O balow, balow la lay,
Gifts for a baby King, O.

(Dorothy L. Sayers)

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