The Ghosts of Christmas Past

by Valentine Wolfe



Musically, we challenged ourselves to write an entire work with only my double bass and Sarah’s voice. I’ve been fascinated with the notion of using delay and reverb (short for reverberation, meaning an audio effect that mimics physical space) to create musical ghosts, that is, music that plays itself and exists as its own shadow.

And with the dark nights of December upon us, it seemed we had the perfect opportunity to conjure up our ghosts. They are mostly traditional songs, but Sarah wrote her own melodies for three of them, and all of them have been manipulated to create our own spectral atmosphere.

So turn the lamps down, light a candle, and lock your doors. There will be time enough for the bright songs of the morning to bring comfort on Christmas Day. But on this dark eventide, the bumps in the night are not reindeer…


released December 6, 2015

Sarah Black: Vocals
Braxton Ballew: Double Bass


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Valentine Wolfe Greenville, South Carolina

Two morbidly fascinated musicians combining ambient solo bass, brutal distortion, electronica, and 18th century opera to tell a story of the macabre.

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Track Name: Dark is the Even
Dark is the even
Yet is the heaven
Lighted and glowing around us.
Shepherds arising
In wild surmising
Magic indeed hath found us!

Fair roses growing
Mid winter’s snowing
Who hath the vision beholden?
Yet, o’er the meadows
Through midnight’s shadows
See! How the sunlight is golden!

Over His dreaming
Radiance is streaming
Flooding the desolate manger
In Mary’s keeping
Soft He is sleeping
Held in her arms from danger

From God descended
Ragged, untended
Birds in the branches above them
Warmer are biding
Safe in their hiding
Clothed by the hands that love them

Melodies ringing
Angels are singing
Songs all around us are swelling
Sun of the morning
Tender thy dawning
Darkness and ill dispelling
Track Name: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
Track Name: In the Bleak Midwinter
In the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone
Snow had fallen, Snow on snow, snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, Long ago

Angels and archangels, May have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim, Thronged the air
Only His mother, In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the beloved, With a kiss

What can I give him, Poor as I am
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man, I would do my part
What can I give Him, Give my heart
Track Name: I Wonder as I Wander
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor lonely people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus twas in a cow’s stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from the heavens a star’s light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it cause He was the King.
Track Name: Wither's Rocking Hymn
Sweet baby sleep, What ailes my dear?
What ailes my darling thus to cry?
Be still my childe, and lend thine ear
To hear me sing they lullaby
My pretty lambe, forbear to weep;
Be still my dear, sweet baby sleep!

Thou blessed soul, What canst thou fear?
What thing to thee can mischief do?
They God is now they Father dear,
His holy spouse thy mother too.
Sweet baby then, forbear to weep;
Be still my babe; sweet baby sleep!
Track Name: Bethlehem Down
When He is king, We will give him the king’s gifts
Myrrh for its sweetness and gold for a crown
Beautiful robes, said the young girl to Joseph
Fair with her firstborn on Bethlehem Down

Bethlehem Down is full of the star light
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold

When He is king they will clothe Him in graves sheets
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown
He that lies now in the soft arms of Mary
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down

Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming
Close huddled oxen to keep him from cold
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold
Track Name: Candlemas Eve Carol
Down with the rosemary and bays
Down with the mistletoe
Instead of holly now up-raise
The greener box for show

Thus times and seasons oft do shift
Each thing his turn doth hold
New thoughts and things now do succeed
As former things grow old

The holly hitherto did sway
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day
Or Easter’s Eve appear

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew

When yew is out, the birch comes in
And many flowers beside
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honor Whitsuntide

Green rushes then and sweetest bents
With cooler oaken boughs
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house
Track Name: Gaudete
Gaudete! gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!

Tempus adest gratiae, Hoc quod optabamus;
Carmina laticiae Devote redamus.

Deus homo factus est, Natura mirante;
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.

Ezechielis porta Clausa pertransitur;
Unde Lux est orta, Salus invenitur.

Ergo nostra concio Psallat jam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino: Salus Regi nostro.
Track Name: The Coventry Carol
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
By, by lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
By, by lully, lullay

O sisters too, How may we do
For to preserve this day,
This poor youngling
For whom we do sing, By, by lully, lullay

Herod the King, In his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, In his own sight
All young children to slay

That woe is me, Poor child for thee
And ever mourn and sy
For this parting, Neither say nor Sing
By, by, lully, lullay
Track Name: Morning Hush
Morning hush
First a blush
Faintly telling
Day is welling
Down the glades
Flee the shades
Through the meadows
Speed the shadows
Yet in vain
For again
Come the even
All the heaven
Loses light
Turns to night
Fades from splendor
Pale and tender

Brighter light
Burns at night
What a wonder
Burst asunder
Night unmade
Where a maid
Bears a blossom
At her bosom
Holy morn
God is born
Heaven’s treasure
Without measure
Poured on earth
At His birth
Night for ever
Gone for ever

Here is news
None refuse
Crowns of gladness
Changed for sadness
Joy for shame
Since He came
No more sorrow
No tomorrow
All today
Sing and pray
Sing His praises
Ask His graces
All is bright
All is light
On the seven
Roads to Heaven

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