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If you are looking for a festive work to feature in your next Christmas concert or special service of worship – THIS IS IT!  This three movement work for Advent/Christmas is scored for mixed voices and has three options for accompaniment. (See below) Using ancient liturgical texts, the work’s three movements represent the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

There are three options for accompaniment:

  1. HMB234A–Organ, 3 tpts, 2 tbns, bass tbn, tuba, timp + 1 perc: xylophone, glockenspiel, bass drum, suspended cymbal, crash cymbals, tam-tam, bongos
  2. HMB234B–Organ, timp + 1 perc: xylophone, glockenspiel, bass drum, suspended cymbal, crash cymbals, tam-tam, bongos
  3. HMB234C–Organ, timp (organ part played from choral score and adding timpani part HMB234C )


Voicing: SATB (div.)
Accomp: 1. Organ or 2. Brass, organ, timp, perc. or 3. Organ & timp
Duration: 17 min
Language: Latin
Difficulty: Medium-Difficult to Difficult

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(These notes taken from the vocal score)

Composer’s Notes

The three texts of Canite Tuba are most closely aligned with the liturgical seasons of Advent (I. Canite Tuba); Christmas (II. Verbum Caro Factum Est); and Epiphany (III. Surge Illuminare). Although the work was written to be performed as a triptych, each movement stands on its own and may be extracted for use in liturgical services.

The accompaniment of Canite Tuba is scored for brass, timpani, percussion and organ but is also available in a version for organ, timpani and percussion. Additionally, the work may be performed using the organ reduction in this vocal score that is complete in itself (for dramatic effect the timpani part may be added). In this version, limited organ registrations have been indicated but should only be considered as a point of departure. Pedal registrations have been omitted assuming that the pedal will be balanced with the manuals.

If performing with the organ score printed here, a special note needs to be made about the second movement. Manual two must sound somewhat distant and use a color that contrasts with manual one. For the most part, manual two is a reduction of the brass part, from the brass, timpani, percussion and organ version, where the brass moves gently in and out of the texture. It adds an air of mystery to the overall effect without ever overpowering the whole. Understanding the desired effect is crucial to choosing the right registration. The ideal color would be a very soft 8’ reed (with flues to round out the color) that is under expression and buried deep within an organ chamber. However, since every organ installation is unique the specific registration is best left to the organist. In cases where the organ has limited colors and the effect is not satisfactory, a few bells may be added to the organ part and played ad libitum from a far corner of the performing space. If bells are used, keep the effect simple by using only one or two bells at a time that play notes from the harmony. One might consider:

Measure 13:    E flat and E natural played on the downbeats of measures 13, 14, and 15.
Measure 17:    B flat played only on the downbeat of measure 17.
Measure 23:    B flat resolving to C flat (B natural) in measure 25 playing the rhythm in the score.
Measure 31:    Beginning on beat two, playing the lowest notes as written, through measure 33.
Measure 49:    B flat played on the downbeat.
Measure 53:    B flat resolving to C flat (B natural) in measure 54.
Measure 102: (Organ only).

Although not as crucial, one might also consider:

Measure 39:    Beginning on beat two, playing every “new” note through measure 43. This highlights the octave-displaced notes from the first phrase of the Lutheran chorale Von Himmel Hoch.

The first iteration of the faux chant in the second movement is sung in unison by the 1st tenors and the altos. Every effort should be made to create a unison that sounds neither tenor nor alto in color. Tenors should bring a “halo” to their sound, reducing some of the natural “point” in the tenor voice. Altos should work for a more forward sound and avoid an overly “wooly” color that this vocal register might encourage.

In the third movement, should the fugue prove too difficult at the indicated tempo (dotted quarter equals 66) one might consider taking the fugue portion slightly slower – only slightly! To ensure a spirited finish, a stringendo should be added in measure 122 that leads to the desired tempo by measure 125.

Donald McCullough

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