Timothy Shaw offers a wonderful modern perspective on Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn, “We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth” for SAB choir and piano. With an expressive piano part and delicate melody, this beautiful arrangement encapsulates the true Christmas spirit of hushed wonderment and joy in the incarnation.
Shaw has taken a great 14th-century German text that includes some stanzas by Martin Luther and provided a lovely new tune and accompaniment. This is a splendid opportunity for those who seek to provide classic Reformation texts accessible to choirs and faith communities of today. SAB voicing appears to be very natural with Shaw, and this should find great usage for Christmastide and Epiphanytide worship or concerts. (CrossAccent, Spring 2015)
Composer’s Reflection (from “Composer Interview,” Concordia Publishing House, April 25, 2017):
One of my favorite pieces is an SAB anthem for Christmas, “We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth.” I wrote this when I was working with a small church choir that had only a few men, hence SAB! The fourteenth-century text, from German and Martin Luther, is stunning in its coupling of beautiful imagery with theological insight (e.g., “The gift from God’s eternal throne here clothed in our poor flesh and bone”), and the words captured my imagination the first time I read them.
I remember sitting at the piano with the text in front of me, improvising different musical ideas. The piano introduction came first, and the top notes of the right hand have a close affinity with the melody itself. This is one of the first pieces where I use chromatic-mediant harmonic relationships in depth, as the music shifts from D major to F major and back again. The return to D major on the word “alleluia,” which happens twice (measures 46–47 and measures 70–71), is one of my favorite passages in all of my music. Choir directors can make this moment particularly beautiful by observing the ritard, demanding pure vowels (“oo” and “ah”), and indicating a decrescendo.