There is no Rose – Unterseher

SA(T)B, tanpura, djembe and/or doumbek, finger cymbals, wind chimes

The medieval English Christmas carol, combined with African drum and East Asian instrumental color, creates a mood of mysticism and celebration. The tanpura part can be played on an inexpensive iPhone-iPad app as well as the acoustic instrument.

Demo Recording by Matthew Curtis,

Purchase THERE IS NO ROSE from Reg’s web site


The medieval English Christmas carol, combined with African drum and the East Asian instrumental color of the tanpura, a drone instrument, creates a mood of mysticism and celebration. The Christmas Rose image is rich with symbolism. From the simple wonder of a flower that can bloom in the snow, to many connections with Mary, the mother of Jesus, it brings to mind images of unexpected beauty. It is also interesting to note that if you chart the orbit of Venus in relation to Earth over a period of 8 years, which is 13 Venus years, a mandala-like pattern emerges, and the center of it is a five-petal flower pattern.


Experiment with the placement of the singers. It is very effective with Sopranos 1 and 2 on opposite sides of the choir, and altos center, for example.
I use modern English pronunciations of the words, except for retaining the “djee-zoo” pronunciation of Jesu. The written drum part is a guide only.The drummer(s) may play freely within that basic structure and feel. I like the mixture of the African djembe with the tanpura and medieval European vocals.
While acoustic instruments are always preferable, an electronic tanpura may be used. I use the iTanpura app on my iPad connected to full-range speakers. In any case, it should not dominate the texture.
*Acoustic 5 or 6 string tanpuras should be tuned to a sa of E, using the fifth (pa) and the fourth (ma) as indicated. I prefer the larger male tanpura sound, though instrumental tanpura works fine, especially coupled with the vocal drone with overtone singing. With iTanpura, use both instruments, Tan. 1 tuned to Pa and Tan. 2 tuned to Ma.
The overtone singing is in the bass parts only, with about half the singers or less doing the overtone oscilations. It should be subtle, not overwhelming.


CHORUS: There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu;
1. There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu;
2. For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space;
Res miranda. (wonderful thing)
3. By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
Pari forma. (equal in form)
4. The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo: (glory on high to God)
Gaudeamus. (let us rejoice)
5. Leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;
Transeamus. (let us go there)


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About Reginald Unterseher

Reginald Unterseher is Music Director and Composer-in-Residence at Shalom United Church of Christ, Richland, Washington. His works are published by Oxford University Press, Walton Music, and through NW Choral Publishing at He is the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association’s “Composer of the Year” for 2013. Mr. Unterseher’s compositions are regularly performed throughout the world and have been featured at ACDA and MENC conventions in the US as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He currently serves as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Men’s Choirs for the Northwest Division of the American Choral Director’s Association, and is in demand as a choral and vocal adjudicator and clinician. Mr. Untereseher is a past Artistic Director of Consort Columbia (now Mid-Columbia Mastersingers), founder and past Chorus Master of Washington East Opera, and an active member of Male Ensemble Northwest.