VENI EMMANUEL

Excerpt from Jesse Ayers’ “Veni Emmaneul “performed by the Malone University Chorale, Symphonic Band, and Orchestra.
The composer is playing timpani.

10 minutes

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Video: Complete Work, Malone Univ. Music Dept.

Jesse Ayers’ “Veni Emmaneul “performed by the Malone University Chorale, Symphonic Band, and Orchestra.
The composer is playing timpani.

Notes on performance options

  • Orchestral and concert band accompaniments are available.
  • The work was designed to be a processional number for a Christmas program, opening with the men singing, chant-like, from the back of the hall, followed by a stately procession of the choir(s) to the stage.
  • The orchestral and band versions are in the same key so that the piece can be used as a department-wide opening number.
  • The work can also feature multiple choirs: verse 1 – men’s chorus, verse 2 – women’s chorus, verse 3 – SATB choir, verse 4 – all choirs

Program Notes

As one will surmise from the title, this work is based on the 14th-century hymn Veni, Veni Emmanuel, best known to many today as the Advent carol O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I have always thought there is a progression in the text of the English-language stanzas from darkness to light. I hear darkness and longing in the first verse (“ransom,” “lonely exile”), the human spirit crying out for hope in a seemingly hopeless world. Each verse, to me, becomes successively brighter until by the last verse the heart is flooded with light, as Christ, the source of all hope, is revealed. The light of the victorious “Rejoice!” refrain is delayed until the progression to light is completed.

This piece seeks to portray this progression from gloom to joy, opening very darkly, followed by the men voices offstage yearning for hope. This is followed by successive statements of the Veni tune, while the choir literally moves from dark to light, as the singers process, bearing candles, from the rear of a darkened auditorium to the light of the stage. As with many settings of Advent and Christmas music, I have also quoted related material. During the processional, the orchestra segues from Veni to What Wondrous Love, a reflection on the Advent of Christ. At the end of the processional, as the women sing the second verse, the sopranos and first violins intone the carol What Child Is This? ( Greensleeves ) as a descant to the Veni tune. Since the music is moving from dark to light, the brightest moment of the O Come hymn, the four big chords that open the refrain with the text “Rejoice! Rejoice,” is withheld until the closing bars. As the choir sings these words for the first time, the brass immediately sound a fanfare on Crown Him with Many Crowns , a reminder that the babe in the manger is the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.

— J.A. 


Performed by

  • Saint Xavier University Wind Ensemble and Choir
  • ​Ohio Northern University Symphony Orchestra, Travis Jürgens, conducting
  • Waldorf College Choir and Wind Symphony
  • Milligan College Orchestra and Choirs, Kellie Brown, conducting
  • Malone University Chorale, Band, & Orchestra, Jon Peterson, conducting
  • Concord Chamber Orchestra, Bach Chamber Choir, and Lutheran A Cappella Chorus, Jamin Hoffman, conducting
  • First Methodist Choir & Orchestra, Montgomery, AL
  • Summit Choral Society & Orchestra (Akron OH),
  • Hollis Town Band & Christmas Chorus (NH)
  • Durban City Orchestra (South Africa)
  • Mountt Union College Symphonic Band