Before retiring, Robin Boyle, as the manager of Chester Music (London) and subsequently of Faber Music (London), had the single most profound influence on my career as a published composer. It is fitting that he should also be responsible for affording me one of the most prized opportunities available to my profession - a commission to compose a carol for the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge.
Although not directly related to the nativity, Lord Tennyson’s striking poem, Ring out, wild bells, inventively encapsulates the core Christian principles of community, generosity and kindness. Several previous musical settings of the poem exist, but they generally squeezed the words into repetitive bouncing triplet rhythms. This isn’t how I read the poem, and I thought it would be more interesting to explore the less regular rhythmic elements of the text without formulating an invariant ‘verse’ structure.
Ring out, wild bells was commissioned by Robin Boyle for the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge, and was first performed by that choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, on 24 December, 2012.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson - Ring out, wild bells
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.