“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” is our familiar English title for the German Christmas carol, “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.” It is also sometimes called in English “A Spotless Rose.” The German version, author unknown, first appeared in print in 1599. The German composer Michael Praetorius harmonized the most common tune for the carol in 1609.
The first of the original two verses is the prophecy of Isaiah foretelling the birth of Jesus, and emphasizing the royal (King David) lineage of Jesus. It speaks of a rose sprouting from the Tree of Jesse (the father of David). This image was particularly popular in art from medieval times.
The second verse explains the symbolism of Jesus’ mother Mary as the rose that has sprung up to bear a child. The child is represented as a small flower. It emphasizes the virgin birth of Jesus, with Mary as a “pure maiden.” Other verses were added since the 19th century, both in German and other languages.
Although the German text is from the 16th century, the Isaiah prophecy has been featured in Christian hymns since the 8th century. At that time, Cosmas the Melodist wrote a hymn about the Virgin Mary flowering from the Root of Jesse. The earliest German text is in a manuscript from the Monastery of St. Alban in Trier, Germany, and is thought to have been in use at the time of Martin Luther. Johannes Brahms used the tune in 1896 as a base for a chorale prelude for organ. Another Christmas hymn, “A Great and Mighty Wonder,” has the same tune and is often confused with “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”
Shawn Kirchner is the arranger of the version performed by the Longmont Chorale. He is active in Los Angeles music circles and in 2012 was appointed the LA Master Chorale’s Swan Family Composer in Residence. His writings are influenced by his interest in folk/carol traditions and poetry. Mr. Kirchner has produced cycles of the poetry of Pabol Neruda and Sylvia Plath, among others. The styles of his original works include jazz, gospel, folk and bluegrass. As a vocalist, Mr. Kirchner has performed widely, including with the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa
he has a BA in Peace Studies from Manchester University and a MA in Choral Conducting from the University of Iowa.
The Longmont Chorale is a nonprofit Longmont choral group, an SATB choir which performs four subscription concerts in Longmont each season in addition to other performances by our auditioned group, Viva Voce.
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