The Crown of Roses

  • Words – A N Pleshcheev (1825-93)
  • Translated – G Dearmer
  • Music – P I Tchaikovsky (1840-93)

This article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of our parish magazine. 

The book “100 Carols for Choirs” is the Advent and Christmas staple of all choirs and choral societies. It is packed with choral arrangements of all your Christmas favourites, the traditional, the new, and the unexpected. “The Crown of Roses” definitely falls in the ‘unexpected’ category.

Rehearsals for the Manchester Chorale Christmas concert began even earlier than usual in 2018, and during that process I discovered no.98, The Crown of Thorns. The theme of the concert was Christmas Around they World, and this is a traditional Russian carol. It struck me as far more suitable for Easter:

 

  • When Jesus Christ was yet a child
  • He had a garden small and wild
  • Wherein he cherished Roses fair
  • And wove them into garlands there.

 

  • Now once, as summertime drew nigh,
  • There came a troop of children by,
  • And seeing roses on the tree,
  • With shouts they plucked them merrily.

 

  • ‘Do you bind roses in your hair?’,
  • They cried, in scorn, to Jesus there.
  • The boy said humbly, ‘Take, I pray,
  • All but the naked thorns away.’

 

  • Then of the thorns they made a crown,
  • And with rough fingers pressed it down,
  • Till on his forehead fair and young
  • Red drops of blood like roses sprung.

Mary is often referred to metaphorically as a Rose, and our hearts as gardens. The parallels in this poem are obvious.

We performed this piece in Didsbury Baptist Church to a packed audience. The music perfectly matches and enhances the mood of each verse. There was barely a dry eye afterwards.

You can hear Tenebrae perform this carol here: https://youtu.be/2e9as3JL7y4

Carol P


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