Wellcome, all wonders in one sight!
was written for South Wilts A Cappella (a choir from South Wilts Grammar School) to sing in Salisbury Cathedral. It is an unaccompanied setting of a section of an extended poem called ‘An Hymne of the Nativity, sung as by the shepherds’ by the seventeenth-century metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw. This poem has a chorus of shepherds who encourage the two principal characters (also shepherds), Tityrus and Thyrsis, to tell what they saw at Christ’s birth. Dove uses a very small section of the chorus and part of a verse when both Tityrus and Thyrsis speak together (‘We saw thee in thy balmy nest’). Dove has written of Crashaw’s paradoxical imagery which spoke strongly to him: ‘Eternity shut up in a span. Summer in winter, day in night’, which, with remarkable economy, conveys the power of this miraculous event.
Dove’s setting uses the constant repetition of the words ‘wellcome wonder’ as an accompanimental motif which rocks like the cradle and perhaps also suggests the hushed awe of the shepherds. Around this, first the trebles, then the first basses, and later still the tenors, sing the full text in beautifully lyrical lines which Dove instructs to be sung ‘with awe’. Coming to the end of the first section, which returns in the middle and near the end, Dove produces a wonderful coup de théâtre at the words ‘God in man’, which temporarily interrupts the flow and has all voices high and in a remote key from what has immediately preceded it—a magical effect.
from notes by Paul Spicer © 2010