The Other Wise Man

Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC




a Christmas or Epiphany oratorio
based on the book by Henry Van Dyke
and with hymns depicting the life of Christ

music by Susan Hulsman Bingham


Gentile da Fabriano: "Adoration of the Magi", detail. Rome.



Narrator and treble chorus.


piano, synthesizer, percussion


treble chorus only






Henry Van Dyke's tale, THE OTHER WISE MAN and hymns depicting the life of Jesus
(see HYMNS listed in SYNOPSIS section below)




tonal, middle eastern, rhythmic, chantlike in places



  Click here to hear a sound sample sung by the Chancel Opera Company Children's Chorus. Margaret Youngberg, soprano, Narrator.


twenty-five minutes


Christ Church Parish,
New Haven, CT, January 2000



A fourth Wise Man sold all he possessed to buy three precious jewels which he hoped to give to the newborn Christ Child. Though he had planned to journey with the other three Magi to Bethlehem, he was delayed and failed to meet up with them. The fourth Magi spent his whole life searching for the Child, and in his search he gave away one, then two, and finally all three of his jewels to help others. Finally, just at the time of the Crucifixion, he died and was rewarded with the vision of his Lord.


1. Bethlehem, of noblest cities, None can once with thee compare; Thou alone the Lord from heaven Didst for us incarnate bear.
Solemn things of mystic meaning: Incense doth the God disclose; Gold a royal Child proclaimeth; Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.

Roman Breviary, Hymn O sola magnarum urbium at Lauds. (Tr. E. Caswell) (Prudentius, Cathemerinon, 4th cent.)

2. We worship the Spirit Divine, all wisdom and goodness possessing, Surrounded by Holy Immortals, the giver of bounty and blessing. We joy in the works of His hands, His truth and His power confessing.

We praise all the things that are pure, for these are His only Creation; The thoughts that are true, and the words and deeds that have won approbation. These are supported by him and for these we make adoration.

Henry Van Dyke

3. O God, Who on this day didst reveal Thine only-begotten Son by the leading of a star; mercifully grant that we who know Thee now by faith, may be brought to the contemplation of the beauty of Thy majesty.

Roman Missal, Epiphany, Collect. (Gregorian, 6th cent.)

4. For love of Thee Thus far from home the East is comeTo seek herself in Thy sweet eyes; I, who strangely went astray, Lost in a bright Meridian night, A darkness made of too much day, Beckon’d from afar By thy fair star, Pray at last I will find my way.

Richard Crashaw: The Glorious Epiphany of Our Lord,
a Hymn (17th cent., adapted.)

5. Who is this that rides so fast o’er the desert’s sandy road, Tracking the Red Sea shore and swimming the torrents broad; Whose camel’s bells are tinkling through the long and starry night – For he rides like a man pursued, like the vanquished of a fight?

F. Faber: The Three Kings. (19th cent., adapted.)

6. (Mary): Little dove, gift from above, quiet now and go to sleep. Let me hold your little fingers in mine while I gaze upon your features so fine. I love you, little one. Now go to sleep. Dream sweet and deep. Lullaby, my child.

Susan Hulsman Bingham


7. Fair eastern star, that art ordained to run Before the sages, to the rising Sun, Here cease thy course, and wonder that the cloud Of this poor cottage can thy Maker shroud.

Sir John Beaumont: Of the Epiphany. (17th cent.)

8. An angel appeared unto Joseph in a dream and said, "Take thy family from Bethlehem to Egypt, where you must remain until I give the word; for Herod searches for the child. Have you not heard? For Herod hopes to find the child and destroy Him, like the rest of them that were killed in Bethlehem."


So Joseph took the mother and the babe and fled the place secretly and silently by night. They made their way to Egypt’s land, and that is where they stayed till Herod’s life came to an end. Have you not heard? For Herod’s life came to an end; He died, just like the rest of them that were killed in Bethlehem.

Susan Hulsman Bingham

9. O God, whose praise the martyred Innocents confessed today, not in speech, but by their death; mortify within us all vice, that our lives may also confess by our actions Thy faith which our tongues profess.

Roman Missal, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Collect.
(Gelasian, 5th to 7th cent.)

10. By a Carpenter mankind was created and made, and by a Carpenter meet it was that man should be repaired.

Erasmus: Paraphrase of St. Mark. (16th cent.)

New miracle of power divine The water reddens into wine: He spake the word: and poured the wave In other streams than nature gave.

Roman Breviary, Epiphany, Hymn.
Crudelis Herodes Deum at Vespers. (Tr. J. Neale) (Sedulius, 5th cent.)

11. The winds were howling o’er the deep,
Each wave a watery hill;
The Savior waken’d from His sleep;
He spake, and all was still.
The madman in a tomb had made
His mansion of despair:
Woe to the traveler who stray’d
With heedless footsteps there!
He met that glance, so thrilling sweet,
He heard those accents mild;
And, melting at Messiah’s feet,
Wept like a weaned child.


12. If, Lord, Thy love for me is strong
As this which binds me unto Thee,
What holds me from Thee, Lord, so long,
What holds Thee, Lord, so long from me?

St. Theresa of Jesus; Poems. (Tr. A. Symons, 6th cent.)

13. Come, drop your branches, strew the way,
Plants of the day!
Whom sufferings make most green and gay.
The King of grief, the man of sorrow,
Weeping still, like the wet morrow,
Your shades and freshness comes to borrow.

Henry Vaughn

14. Thou art the Good Shepherd; seek me, a lamb, and do not overlook me in my wanderings.

Byzantine Triodion, Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. (8th cent.)

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.

Joel 2:31

The wine of life is spilled upon the sand.
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
when all good things have perished utterly . . .

Oscar Wilde: E. Tenebris. (19th cent.)

Righteous Judge! for sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.

Thomas of Celano: Dies Irae. (13th cent.)

Behold the Lamb! Oh! Thou for sinners slain, --
Let it not be in vain, That Thou has died:
Thee for my Savior let me take, --
Thee, -- Thee alone my refuge make, --
Thy pierced side!

M Bridges: Ecce Agnus Dei. (19th cent.)

15. (Jesus) "Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou has done it unto me."

Gospel of St. Matthew, 25:40

16. Tell us, tell us, all ye faithful,
What this morning came to pass
At the awful elevation
In the Canon of the Mass. –
"Very God of Very God.
By whom the worlds were made,
In silence and in helplessness
Upon the altar laid."
Tell us, tell us, wondrous Jesu,
What has drawn Thee from above
To the manger and the altar. –
All the silence answers – Love.

Digby Mackworth Dolben

17. (This hymn is optional. If you use it, add another two minutes to the performance time.)


Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter. Day in night.
Heaven in earth, and God in Man.
Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

Richard Crashaw: The Holy Nativity of Our Lord, a Hymn. (17th cent.)

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.

Henry van Dyke

The Christmas stars at Bethlehem
Shone very clear and bright;
Oh, may they shine with light divine
For you this Christmas night!

Sister Madeleva: Wishes. (20th cent).

Composer's comment: works wonderfully as an oratorio. Best in a space with lively accoustics, as the piece is chantlike and transparent. Has a true seasonal mood, enhanced further by the exotic instrumentation. Try to have the words of the hymns available to your congregation (formatted bulletin insert with hymns available upon request). SHB

Priests'/Ministers comments:
We were so blessed to have you with us yesterday. 'Liked it' doesn't even begin to describe my feelings about The Other Wise Man. In awe for your gifts is a good start, and a real appreciation for the gift of music's power to move . . ."
The Rev'd Susan Fowler, Short Beach Union Church, Branford, Connecticut

"The Other Wise Man was a wonderful way for us to experience anew the joy and passion of Epiphany . . . The youngsters performed with incredible grace and poise. They were clear and engaging, and they told the story with passion. All gathered . . . were touched . . ."
The Revd's Maria La Sala and Bill Goettler, First Presbyterian Church, New Haven, Connecticut, January, 2002.


Musical score: $50. Price includes shipping and handling withing the U.S. as well as performing rights and permission to make sufficient copies for cast and accompanists within one group or company for one season.

"The Other Wise Man" downloadable PDF file: $25.

CD of three chancel operas (THE OTHER WISE MAN, PIECE TOGETHER, and TALES FROM A MAGIC MONASTERY): $20. Price includes shipping within the U.S. form).


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