Language: English Instruments: A cappella. First published in , and therefore public domain in the United States though not yet elsewhere. English text. A Spotless Rose is blowing, Sprung from a tender root, Of ancient seers' foreshowing, Of Jesse promised fruit; Its fairest bud unfolds to light Amid the cold, cold winter, And in the dark midnight.

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This Christmas we count down the days with an advent calendar of the 25 best Christmas carols ever written, as voted for by 50 top choral experts from the across the UK and US. Herbert Howells, who arguably more than anyone influenced British church music in the 20th century, was not himself a believer.

Suitably, his A Spotless Rose was thought up in the least sacred of circumstances — Howells said it came to him as he was watching trains shunting on the Bristol-Gloucester line from his cottage window.

Shunting trains seem a world away from the arching lines of the anthem itself, in which the flowing melody is carried first by the choir then a baritone soloist over a subdued chorale-like harmony.

And, as is so often the case with Howells, a touch of brilliance is saved for the final chords. BBC Music Magazine digital editions.

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Herbert Howells: A Spotless Rose: SATB

I share your enthusiasm and enjoyed your analysis of the appeal of Howell's music. A Spotless Rose is sublime. I have been singing this music since I was a teenager in church and recreational choirs. It creates a wonderful internal joy. Post a comment. Christopher Palmer records a conversation with the composer:- 'This [A Spotless Rose] I set down and wrote after idly watching some shunting from the window of a cottage

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A spotless rose (Herbert Howells)

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