James writes: "Although the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is not canonical, it is the source of many familiar Christmas images, including that of the ox and donkey adoring the baby Jesus. Less familiar is the episode when a group of lions come to adore Him. It is this passage which I have set in this simple carol, the text heavily edited to emphasise its parable-like qualities, and with alleluias added.
"This carol is both a standalone piece in its own right, and part of an ongoing series of settings I am writing of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. Given the text was supposedly written by Saint Jerome (although scholars now doubt this to be the case), these pieces are also loosely connected with my #lionopera project, a series of children's operas freely based on the legend of the lion and the donkey living in Saint Jerome's monastery."
Similiter leones adorabant eum, alleluia.
Ut vidit Maria leones vehementer expavit, alleluia.
Cui infans Iesus dixit noli timere mater, alleluia.
Likewise lions adored him, alleluia.
When Mary saw the lions, she was most afraid, alleluia.
But the baby Jesus said: ‘do not be afraid, mother’, alleluia.
- The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapter 19
Similiter leones was generously commissioned by Slaughter and May, and is to be given its first performance by their choir on 19 December 2017, conducted by the composer. The score will be available to purchase from Olsen Verlag shortly afterwards.
A draft recording of the piece can be heard here:
Illustration: SBS Gen. 8 Klosterneuburger Evangelienwerk (c.1340), fol. 27v.
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