12 Dec 2022
Composer, Anna Semple, commissioned by Trinity Hall, has composed a new Christmas carol – setting to music the words of an anonymous Old English poem written c. 650 years ago, during the College’s founding century.
The anonymous late 14th-century text, entitled “The Spryng Wel”, focusses upon the pregnant Mary and presents the healing promise of the Christ Child in contrast to Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion.
Composed for upper voices and organ, the carol was first performed by members of the Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall and former Organ Scholar, Erin Cox, at the College’s Advent Carol Service on Sunday 27 November. The choir have subsequently recorded it in order that it can be shared more widely in the lead-up to Christmas.
The carol was commissioned on behalf of the College by Andrew Arthur, Fellow & Director of Music, as part of the Trinity Hall Arts Festival which celebrates the theme of creativity.
Andrew said: “This is the first carol the College has commissioned and it’s provided a tremendous opportunity for our students – not only to sing something which has been written specially for them, but also to have been able to sing for Anna during the rehearsal process, benefitting from her unique perspective as the composer.”
For Trinity Hall, the carol is made all the more special by the fact that its composer is an alumna of the College and was, herself, a member of the College’s Chapel Choir for two years whilst she was studying Music as an undergraduate from 2015-18.
Since graduating, Ms Semple has completed a Master’s in Composition at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and is now enjoying a burgeoning career as a freelance singer, composer and teacher.
Anna explained why she chose the anonymous text for inspiration: “I find that, even in translation, lots of the poetry of the Middle Ages is really phonetically rich and the sound of the language is really illustrative and I like using that in music. So, I thought I would look for something from early English texts and ‘The Spryng Wel’ was one that hadn’t (to my knowledge) been set before.”
Writing for her old College was a particular pleasure, she said: “I understand how rehearsals work for the students in the context of all their other commitments; I know the sound of the chapel organ as well as the intimacy of the chapel space, and I really wanted that to be at the forefront of my thinking when I was writing. So, I was trying to make a piece which was quite simple in construction, but which felt like a little world contained within itself, as that’s what the chapel feels like.”
A video-recording of the work has been released today and can be seen on our YouTube Channel and other social media channels.