with VOCES8 vocal ensemble

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Wednesday 9th December – Saturday 12th December 2020

A Guardian Angel

This special Advent edition of the acclaimed collaboration A Guardian Angel, by Rachel Podger and VOCES8 opened Voces8 LIVE From London – Christmas online festival.

ICC is the first organisation to be licensed to broadcast it to their members.  The podcast starts with an Ilkley introduction from Barney Smith and a pre-concert conversation with Rachel. The music begins at about 20:15 min.

Programme details are below.
Click Here to download the words and translations.

We should pray to the angels, for they are given to us as guardians” (Saint Ambrose).

This beautiful, candlelit meditation includes solo Biber and Bach for which Rachel is acclaimed, alongside advent carols and prayers by Praetorius, Claas, Mendelssohn and Britten, Jonathan Dove’s moving The Three Kings and Owain Park’s Antiphon for the Angels which was written especially for the original project. Alec Roth’s Men and Angels, with a new violin part written especially for Rachel, receives its premiere performance.

A member has suggested, that given the difficult times still being experienced by many musicians, they would like to donate £5 per online concert to Help Musicians (previously the Musicians Benevolent Fund).  If any other member would similarly like to make a donation, please click the Help Musicians picture to access our donation page.


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Michael Praetorius: Es Ist Ein Ros’ Entsprungen

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin from the Mystery Sonatas “The Guardian Angel”

Chant (arr. Voces8): Angelus ad Virginem

Hieronymous Praetorius: Angelus ad Pastores Ait á 8

 Nicola Matteis: Passagio rotto

Trad. (arr Stefan Claas): Maria Durch ein Dornwald Ging

Felix Mendelssohn,: Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen über dir

Alec Roth: Men and Angels

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita for Flute in A minor: I. Allemande

Benjamin Britten: A Hymn to the Virgin

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita for Flute in A minor: II. Corrente

Jonathan Dove: The Three Kings

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita for Flute in A minor: IV. Bouree Anglaise

Owain Park: Antiphon for the Angels (New Commission)

WORDS AND TRANSLATIONS – © Rachel Podger and Voces8

Es ist ein Ros’ Entsprungen by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
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1. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse kam die Art
und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

2. Das Röslein, das ich meine,
davon Jesaia sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine
Marie die reine Magd.
Aus Gottes ewgem Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

3. Das Blümelein so kleine,
das duftet uns so süß,
mit seinem hellen Scheine
vertreibt’s die Finsternis:
Wahr’ Mensch und wahrer Gott,
hilft uns aus allem Leide,
rettet von Sünd und Tod.

4. Lob, Ehr sei Gott dem Vater,
dem Sohn und heilgen Geist!
Maria, Gottesmutter,
sei hoch gebenedeit!
Der in der Krippen lag,
der wendet Gottes Zoren,
wandelt die Nacht in Tag.

5. O Jesu, bis zum Scheiden
aus diesem Jamerthal
Laß dein Hilf uns geleiten
hin in der Engel Saal,
In deines Vaters Reich,
da wir dich ewig loben:
o Gott, uns das verleih!

1. Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

2. Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

3. The shepherds heard the story
proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory
was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

4. This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God,
from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

5. O Saviour, Child of Mary,
who felt our human woe,>
O Saviour, King of glory,
who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray,
to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

Angelus ad Virginem [chant arranged VOCES8]
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Angelus ad Virginem
Sub intrans in conclave,
Virginis formidinem
Demulcens, inquit: Ave!
Ave regina virginum;
Caeli terraeque Dominum
Et paries intacta
Salutem hominum;
Tu porta caeli facta,
Medela criminum.

Quomodo conciperem
Quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem
Quod firma mente vovi?
Spiritus Sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
Ne timeas,
Sed gaudeas, secura
Quod castimonia
Manebit in te pura
Dei potentia.

Ad haec virgo nobilis
Respondens inquit ei:
Ancilla sum humilis
Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi caelesti nuntio,
Tanti secreti conscio,
Et cupiens videre
Factum quod audio;
Parata sum parere,
Dei consilio.

Angelus disparuit
et statim puellaris
uterus intumuit
vi partus salutaris.
Qui circumdatus utero
novem mensium numero
hinc exiit
et iniit
affigens humero
crucem qua dedit ictum
hosti mortifero.

Eia mater Domini,
Quae pacem redidisti
Angelis et homini,
Cum Christum genuisti:
Tuum exora filium
ut se nobis propitium
et deleat peccata:
Praestans auxilium
Vita frui beata
Post hoc exsilium.

Gabriel, from heaven’s king
Sent to the maiden sweet,
Brought to her blissful tiding
And fair ‘gan her to greet.
‘Hail be thou, full of grace aright!
For so God’s Son, the heaven’s light,
Loves man, that He
a man will be and take
Flesh of thee, maiden bright,
Mankind free for to make
Of sin and devil’s might.’

Gently to him gave answer
The gentle maiden then:
‘And in what wise should I bear
Child, that know not man?’
The angel said: ‘O dread thee nought.
‘Tis through the Holy Ghost that wrought
Shall be this thing whereof tidings
I bring:
Lost mankind shall be bought
By thy sweet childbearing,
And back from sorrow brought.’

When the maiden understood
And the angel’s words had heard,
Mildly, of her own mild mood,
The angel she answered:
‘Our Lord His handmaiden, I wis,
I am, that here above us is:
And touching me fulfilled be
thy saw;
That I, since His will is,
Be, out of nature’s law
A maid with mother’s bliss.’

The angel went away thereon
And parted from her sight
And straightway she conceived a Son
Through th’ Holy Ghost His might.
In her was Christ contained anon,
True God, true man, in flesh and bone;
Born of her too
When time was due;
who then
Redeemed us for His own,
And bought us out of pain,
And died for us t’atone.

Filled full of charity,
Thou matchless maiden-mother,
Pray for us to him that He
For thy love above other,
Away our sin and guilt should take,
And clean of every stain us make
And heaven’s bliss,
when our time is to die,
Would give us for thy sake;
With grace to serve him by
Till He us to him take. Amen

Angelus ad Pastores Ait by Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629)
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Angelus ad pastores ait: ‘annuntio vobis gaudium magnum,
quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator mundi.’
Parvulus filius hodie natus est nobis, et vocabitur Deus fortis.
The angel said to the shepherds: ‘I bring you tidings of great joy,
the Saviour of the world has been born for you today.’
A tiny son is born to us today, and he shall be called Mighty God.

Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging [traditional arranged by Stefan Claas (b. 1998)]
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Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging.
Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging,
Der hat in sieben Jahr’n kein Laub getragen!
Jesus und Maria.

Was trug Maria unter ihrem Herzen?
Ein kleines Kindlein ohne Schmerzen,
Das trug Maria unter ihrem Herzen!
Jesus und Maria.

Da haben die Dornen Rosen getragen.
Als das Kindlein durch den Wald getragen,
Da haben die Dornen Rosen getragen!
Jesus und Maria.

Maria walks amid the thorn,
Which for seven years no leaf hath born
She walks amid the wood of thorn
Jesus and Maria.

What ‘neath her heart does Mary bear?
A little child doth Mary bear
Beneath her heart he nestles there.
Jesus and Maria.

Lo! Roses on the thorns appear!
And as the two are passing near
Lo! Roses on the thorns appear!
Jesus and Maria.

Denn er hat seinen engeln beföhlen über dir by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
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Denn er hat seinen engeln beföhlen über dir,
daß sie dich behüten auf allen deinen Wegen,
daß sie dich auf den Händen tragen
und du deinen Fuß nicht an einen Stein stoßest.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee:
to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee in their hands:
that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.

Men and Angels by Alec Roth (b. 1948)
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Chorus Praised be the God of love,
Men Here below,
Angels And here above:
Chorus Who hath dealt his mercies so,
Angels To his friend,
Men And to his foe;

Chorus That both grace and glory tend
Angels Us of old,
Men And us in th’end.
Chorus The great shepherd of the fold
Angels Us did make,
Men For us was sold.

Chorus He our foes in pieces brake:
Angels Him we touch;
Men And him we take.
Chorus Wherefore, since that he is such,
Angels We adore,
Men And we do crouch.

Chorus Lord, thy praises should be more.
Men We have none,
Angels And we no store.
Chorus Praised be the God alone,
Who hath made of two folds one.

A Hymn to the Virgin by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
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Of on that is so fayr and bright
Velut maris stella,
Brighter than the day is light,
    Parens et puella:
Ic crie to the, thou see to me,
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,
    Tam pia,
That ic mote come to thee

Al this world was for-lore
    Eva peccatrice,
Tyl our Lord was y-bore
    De te genetrice.
With ave it went away
Thuster nyth and comz the day
The welle springeth ut of the,

Levedy, flour of alle thing,
    Rose sine spina,
Thu bere Jhesu, hevene king,
Gratia divina:
Of alle thu ber’st the pris,
Levedy, quene of paradys
Mayde milde, moder es

The Three Kings by Jonathan Dove (b. 1959)
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O balow, balow lalay.

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

The second king was a man in prime,
The solemn priest of a solemn time,
With eyes downcast and rev’rent feet
He brought his incense sad and sweet,
Gifts for a baby King.

The third king was very old,
Both his hands were full of gold,
Many a gaud and a glittering toy,
Gifts for a baby King.

Antiphon for the Angels by Owain Park (b. 1993)
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This work merges the antiphon by Hildegard von Bingen (in Latin – verse II – and English translation by Barbara Newman – verses II and IV) with a prayer of St Ambrose – verse I. It was commissioned by Rachel Podger and VOCES8 for ‘A Guardian Angel’ tour, 2018 and first performed by them on 27 March 2018 at St George’s, Bristol.
I. Behold the radiant sun departs
In glory from our sight,
But, O our God, possess our hearts
With Thy celestial Light.

II. Spirited light! on the edge
of the Presence your yearning
burns in the secret darkness,
O angels, insatiably
into God’s gaze.

III. O gloriosissimi lux vivens angeli,
qui infra divinitatem
divinos oculos
cum mistica obscuritate
omnis creature aspicitis
in ardentibus desideriis,
unde numquam
potestis saciari.

IV. Perversity
could not touch your beauty;
you are essential joy.
But your lost companion,
angel of the crooked
wings – he sought the summit,
shot down the depths of God
and plummeted past Adam –
that a mud-bound spirit might soar.

PROGRAMME NOTES – © Rachel Podger and Voces8 

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A Guardian Angel

As spiritual beings, angels are considered divine intermediaries between heaven and earth. Over the ages they have inspired artistic flights from musicians and writers, enshrining them in art. Saint Ambrose is traditionally credited with promoting antiphonal voices in sacred music, calls and responses uniquely explored in A Guardian Angel.

The title of this collaborative programme is taken from the engraving that precedes Biber’s Passacaglia in the Rosary Sonatas. Published in 1681, it contains unprecedented complexity and technical challenges. The Passacaglia is the only unaccompanied movement and is preceded tonight by Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, Michael Praetorius’ simple hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary.

In response to Biber’s vision the singers narrate the visitation of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. The chant Angelus ad Virginem is elaborated upon by Hieronymous Praetorius in the resplendent setting of Angelus ad Pastores Ait. Praetorius uses two antiphonal choruses, passing the music back and forth to creates a great sense of the joy of this text. This celebration is continued with the violin music of Nicola Matteis, a Neopolitan who by repute was “certainly never mortal man exceeded on that instrument, he had a stroke so sweet, and made it speak like the voice of a man.” (John Evelyn’s Diary 19th November 1674).

Maria Durch ein Dornwald Ging is a popular German carol which began life as a pilgrimage song, the inclusion of Kyrie eleison in the text pointing to its medieval origins and the penance that went with pilgrimage. The text tells us of the quiet joy Mary has in carrying Jesus, the rose growing amidst thorns.

Angels were summoned by God to protect Elijah in the wilderness in a story famously set by Felix Mendelssohn and represented in the chorus Denn er hat seinen engeln beföhlen über dir (For he shall give his Angels watch over thee). Also scored for antiphonal choirs, Mendelssohn casts the upper four voices in angelic resemblance, with the lower quartet providing warm reassurance.

Men and Angels, by British composer Alec Roth, uses the poem ‘Antiphon II’ by George Herbert and was originally composed as a piece for choir. Roth has specially written a violin part for this programme. He sets his verses out like a play script, with parts for ‘Chorus’, ‘Men’ and ‘Angels’. This works well on the page but is of no help when the text is sung, so Roth’s title ‘Men and Angels’ is helpful, enabling the listener a clue as to what is going on. The upper voices (soprano, alto) sing the words of the Angels, the lower voices (tenor, bass) the Men, and both groups combine for the Chorus.

Masterpieces though they are, Bach’s oft performed Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin are not isolated achievements. A 1720 copy of the violin works included the manuscript for his Partita for solo flute BWV 1013 and its inclusion, coupled with various unidiomatic passages and that it is unaccompanied, means that it could equally well have been for violin. ‘Borrowing’ is in the spirit of the era and Rachel has made the flute partita her own.

Interspersed between the Partitas, VOCES8 perform two pieces with themes of the nativity story. Benjamin Britten’s antiphonal piece A Hymn to the Virgin, composed when he was only 16 years old, gives way to the expectant and jubilant celebration of Jesus’s arrival in the tale of The Three Kings by Jonathan Dove, in which Dove uses a gentle lullaby to narrate the Epiphany story; the old and frail King brings the most radiant gift of gold with the work exploding into life depicting its glittering glory.

Bringing the concert to a rounded close, Owain Park’s new work Antiphon for the Angels amalgamates words by two ancient authors; the original Latin and English translation of a text by Hildegard von Bingen is bracketed with a choral reinvention using St Ambrose’s prayerful Behold the radiant sun departs.

VOCES8 (vocal ensemble)

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Andrea Haines; Eleonore Cockerham (sopranos); Barnaby Smith, Chris Wardle (altos); Euan Williamson, Blake Morgan (tenors); Chris Moore (baritone), Jonathan Pacey (bass).

The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is proud to inspire people through music and share the joy of singing. Touring globally, the group performs an extensive repertory both in its a cappella concerts and in collaborations with leading orchestras, conductors, composers and soloists.

VOCES8 was founded by brothers Paul and Barnaby Smith and, in its 15-year career, has performed at many notable venues in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

This season they began online with the global streaming festival ‘Live From London’. A similar online Christmas festival will take place in December. 2020-2021 also sees the launch of the VOCES8 Digital Academy, an online choral programme featuring live interaction and video resources for choirs around the world. During the season they will release a major new album with Decca Classics, as well as continue to release sheet music with Edition Peters.

VOCES8 is passionate about music education and is the flagship ensemble of its music charity the VOCES8 Foundation. Engaging in a broad range of outreach work that reaches up to 40,000 people a year, the group runs an annual programme of workshops and concerts at the VOCES8 Centre at St Anne & St Agnes Church, London, where our podcast was recorded. Dedicated to supporting young singers, eight annual VOCES8 Scholarships are awarded which are linked to the annual Milton Abbey Summer School at which amateur singers of all ages work and perform with VOCES8.


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Rachel Podger, described as “the unsurpassed British glory of the baroque violin” by The Times, has established herself as a leading interpreter of the Baroque and Classical music periods. She was the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Prize in October 2015 and was Gramophone Artist of the Year 2018. A creative programmer, she is the founder and Artistic Director of Brecon Baroque Festival and her ensemble Brecon Baroque.

After an exciting 2019 which including the innovative new collaboration, A Guardian Angel, with vocal ensemble VOCES8 and performances at The Lincoln Center, La Seine Musicale and Edinburgh International Festival, 2020 has been somewhat different. Nevertheless her recent album releases including Vivaldi Le Quattro Stagioni and J.S. Bach Cello Suites transposed for the violin, have continued to win acclaim.

Alongside this, Rachel and Christopher Glynn will join forces for the first time in recordings and performances of the Beethoven sonatas, and the world premiere recording and performances of three previously unfinished Mozart sonatas which have been completed by Professor Timothy Jones.

Rachel is a dedicated educator and holds an honorary position at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She also has a relationship with The Juilliard School in New York.


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Both Rachel Podger & Voces8 have considerable discographies encompassing a wide range of music. I will just highlight some of their records which relate to tonight’s programme.

Rachel Podger records on Channel Classics. All of her solo music from our programme – by Bach, Biber and Mattheis – can be found in her 2013 album Guardian Angel [CCSSA35513] together with solo violin works by Tartini and Pisandel. This disc was praised by BBC Music Magazine who described the playing as ‘characteristically unforced and natural, [it] manages to sound endlessly considered yet spontaneous’: it won at the BBC Music Magazine awards in 2014. To further explore the Biber Mystery sonatas, of which the passacaglia Guardian Angel is the culmination, Rachel has recorded them on a double album CCSSA37315. Her playing of solo Bach is well illustrated in her latest recording of her own violin transcription of the Bach cello suites – ‘A spellbinding set that is arguably Podger’s finest recorded achievement to date’ [BBC Music Magazine] – which can be found on another double album CCSSA41119.

The best introduction to the versatility and genius of Voces8 is probably provided by Voces8 EP which is obtainable from their website at Not only does it contain the Hieronymus Praetorius and the Mendelssohn from tonight’s programme but a good selection from their distinctive close harmony work including Simon & Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound and A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. Much of the other traditional Christmas music we will hear tonight is recorded on the album Equinox [VCM121D], although the Jonathan Dove piece has only been recorded on their latest double album After Silence [VCM121D]. You can also enjoy an eclectic collection of Voces8’s vocal performances on YouTube.

Two of the newest compositions in the programme can only be found in discs devoted to the music of the composer. A selection of Alec Roth’s choral music, including Men and Angels has been recorded by the Birmingham choral group Ex Cathedra as A Time to Dance [Hyperion CDA68144]. Owain Park is a composer in the ascendant at the moment and there is a new disc of his choral music out this year, recorded by the London-based Epiphoni Consort, which contains The Antiphon for the Angels; this is When Love speaks [Delphian DCD34239].