That first song, “The Greatest Gift”, set me thinking and, in discussion with others at church, we decided to make it the centre-piece of the carol service that year. We wanted to create an event that, like a traditional service of Nine Lessons & Carols, interspersed readings and prayers with congregational carols and items for the music group to present. This quickly expanded to included some elements of drama as well - light comic relief in the form of some very Yorkshire shepherds!
The musical elements were a quasi-choral setting of Isaiah 9: 6-7, “For unto us…”, an instrumental passage to describe the journey to Bethlehem, “The Greatest Gift” and a newly written song about the shepherds’ encounter with the angels, “Glory To God.”
Other than that, I don’t have too many recollections! I do remember carefully handwriting musical scores and parts for others in the group. I had also just bought my very first computer - an Atari 1040ST! This was the musician’s dream machine as it had built in MIDI ports enabling it to be connected to keyboards, drum machine and the like. I used a very early version of Steinberg’s Cubase software to mock up demos of how I wanted the music to sound, storing the files on floppy disks - anybody remember them?
The service went well. The congregation certainly seemed to be appreciative, sitting in hushed silence during “The Greatest Gift”, laughing at all the right moments during the drama sections and clapping along joyfully throughout “Glory To God.”
And so Christmas 1990 came and went. The floppy disks were put in a drawer and the sheet music filed away somewhere. I had always felt that there was more potential to explore other aspects of the Christmas story but it would be eight or nine years before the postman delivered what proved to be the spark that reignited my compositional interest…