Holiday Prelude Concert
Fall 2017 Concert Notes
Tina Johns Heidrich, Conductor
Joe Jacovino, Accompanist
Connecticut Master Chorale Holiday Brass
Sunday November 19, 2017 3:00 pm
First Congregational Church, Danbury, Connecticut
- CD & Clips - Concert Photos -
These concert notes were prepared by soprano Ginnie Carey.
Jeffery L. Ames
Gloria Fanfare – Jeffery L. Ames
This dramatic piece was composed especially for the 2009 Christmas at Belmont National PBS telecast by Dr. Ames, Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University. Opening with a resplendent brass fanfare, his own lyrics in English are entwined with the traditional Latin text to create a jubilant, majestic new Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
It Is Good to Give Thanks – Dan Forrest
An acclaimed young composer, especially of choral works, Dan Forrest has become one of the Chorale's favorite composers in recent years. His original setting of Psalm 92:1-2,4 on the theme of thankfulness is filled with energy and joy. Seamlessly blended into the accompaniment is a portion of the tune Nun Danket Alle Gott (Now Thank We All Our God) by Johann Crüger (1598 - 1662), which was also incorporated by both J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn into their own works.
Sir John Goss
See Amid the Winter's Snow – Sir John Goss; lyrics by Edward Caswall; arr. Dan Forrest
This lovely carol was first published in The Masque of Mary and Other Poems by Edward Caswell in 1858. John Goss wrote the tune Humility specifically for the poem and it was published that same year in "Christmas Carols New and Old". Dan Forrest's reverent arrangement is embellished with Alleluias and exudes a quiet, ethereal beauty.
Yahweh, Hear Our Pleas – Randy Vader and Jay Rouse
Inspired by Psalm 86:6, with music by Randy Vader and Jay Rouse, words by Randy Vader and arranged by Jay Rouse, this upbeat Advent offering is from the Christmas Musical Come, Messiah King and portrays the children of Israel waiting for the Messiah
Birthday in a Manger – arr. Pepper Choplin
Composer, conductor and humorist, Mr. Choplin has gained a reputation as one of the more creative writers in church music today, as seen in this unusual combination of two popular songs.
Happy Birthday, the most recognized song in the English language, is generally attributed to two sisters, Mildred J. Hill (1859 - 1916) and Patty Smith Hill (1868 - 1946). Patty was a school teacher and faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College and Mildred was also an educator as well as composer, organist and pianist. With melody by Mildred and lyrics by Patty, it was originally a classroom greeting song titled "Good Morning to All". The details of how it was turned into a birthday song are unclear, but the birthday version was first published in 1924.
Away in a Manger is a song with a very odd and perplexing history and is attributed to James Ramsey Murray (1841 - 1905). He first published it in his 1887 collection Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lassies, claiming that it was a well-known lullaby in Germany and written by Martin Luther, but used his own initials as songwriter. There has been much discussion as to why he did this, but the next year he published it again in another collection, Royal Praise for the Sunday School: a collection of new and selected gospel songs by J. R. Murray, with "Music by J.R. Murray" and a copyright notice that the earlier publication lacked. Since the song doesn't appear in Martin Luther's writings and the earliest German printing was in 1934, years after the song was popular in America, it is assumed that Murray invented the German story for his own inscrutable reasons. Today it is one of the best-known carols in the English-speaking world.
A CELTIC CHRISTMAS
An eclectic grouping featuring three diverse Celtic pieces.
Christmas Pipes – Brendan Graham; arr. John Leavitt
Irish songwriter and best-selling novelist Brendan Graham was described in the Irish Times as a "musical Midas". He has written songs for a diverse group of artists including Josh Groban, Ronan Tynan, Katherine Jenkins, The Irish Tenors and Il Divo. Christmas Pipes was recorded by Celtic Woman, the all-female Irish musical ensemble, on their A Christmas Celebration CD and PBS television special that has become a seasonal favorite.
Michael W. Smith
A Highland Carol – Michael W. Smith; arr. Tom Fettke and Thomas Grassi
This distinctive Celtic carol was first composed and recorded as an instrumental piece by Michael Smith on his album It's a Wonderful Christmas. Tom Fettke enhanced it with classic Christmas texts from Charles Wesley and Christopher Wordsworth, and then collaborated with Thomas Grassi to complete the transformation into this unique tribute to the spirit of the Highlands.
Journey of the Angels – Enya, Nicky Ryan and Roma Ryan; arr. Kirby Shaw
Eithne Ní Bhraonáin is a classically trained Irish pianist and singer, with a distinctive ethereal voice, who uses the name Enya because it is the correct way to pronounce her first name. The group Enya is really comprised of three people, Nicky Ryan, his wife Roma Ryan and Enya herself. Roma Ryan is the primary lyricist, Nicky Ryan is the producer and Enya's unique sound comes from layering 80 or more tracks of her voice, but all three are essential to the creation of their hypnotic Celtic New Age sound. This lovely story of the angels traveling to the newborn king comes from their 1980 album And Winter Came.
Christmas in the Great Hall – arr. Mark Hayes
An award-winning concert pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, Mark Hayes has created a majestic choral fantasy featuring unique arrangements of seven traditional carols.
Masters in this Hall has particularly interesting origins, as the lyrics were written by a 26-year old William Morris (1834 - 1896) the brilliant textile designer, craftsman and poet whose designs for the decorative arts generated the Arts and Crafts movement. He wrote it specifically for the tune Marche pour les Matelots, written by the celebrated French court musician, viola da gamba player and composer Marin Marais (1656 - 1728) for his 1706 opera Aleyone. From there the tune entered the world of French county dance and eventually became a part of the English country dance tradition as well.
I Saw Three Ships first appeared in Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, collected by William Sandys and published in 1833. The tune is similar to many others from the period and it is believed to have originated in Derbyshire, but the actual origins are unknown. The other mystery involves the lyrics and the meaning of the lyrics. Bethlehem is miles from the coast and a ship couldn't sail there, so what does it mean? One interpretation is that these ships are the three Magi coming to see the baby Jesus on their "ships of the desert" or camels.
Sussex Carol is another old carol, with lyrics that are attributed to Bishop Luke Waddings (1628 - 1691) who was Bishop of Ferns, Ireland. It was published in his book, Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs in 1684. The text and the tune were collected by Cecil Sharp and also by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) who heard it sung in Sussex and published it in 1919.
How Far Is It to Bethlehem? is a poem by playwright and poet Frances Chesterton (1869 - 1938), the wife of British author G. K. Chesterton. Written in 1917, it is the best known of the many poems she wrote for their Christmas cards and has traditionally been set to the 16th century hymn tune Stowey. Arranger Mark Hayes has taken some lines from this song and woven them into the next one as well.
O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks (1835 - 1893), who made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in 1865. He traveled by horseback from Jerusalem and participated in a five-hour Christmas Eve service at Constantine's ancient basilica (326 AD), built over the traditional site of the Nativity. Three years later he wrote the poem for the Sunday school children at his Philadelphia parish, Holy Trinity Church and gave it to the organist of the church Lewis Redner (1831 - 1908) with a request that he set it to music by Sunday. Mr. Redner related that he fell asleep on Saturday night and woke late in the night "hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear" and seized a paper to write down the tune, which is titled St Louis. A wealthy real estate broker who played the organ in the church as an avocation, Mr. Redner later recalled that "Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music would live beyond that Christmas of 1868."
What Star Is This? began as a poem from the prolific poet Charles Coffin (1676 - 1749) who was rector of the University of Paris. All of his poetry was written in Latin, and this translation is by John Chandler (1806 - 1876), one of the earliest and most successful translators of Latin hymns. The melody is Puer Nobis Nascitur (Unto Us Is Born a Son), a 15th century piece found in Trier, Germany, which was adapted in 1609 by Michael Praetorius (1571 - 1621) to become the tune we are familiar with today.
African Star Carol – Michael Barrett
This new carol by Michael Barrett is based on the South African hymn Siyahamba. The word "siyahamba" is from the Zulu language and means "we are walking" or "we are marching" and the song is believed to have originally been a Zulu folk song. Andries Van Tonder rewrote it as a Christian hymn in 1952 and by 1978 it was apparently in common use in South African schools. Anders Nyberg, a Swedish choral director who was on a tour of South Africa with his choral group, recorded it at a girl's school. In 1984 he arranged and published it in the songbook Freedom is Coming with the title We Are Marching in the Light of God.
1922 - 2017
La Trulla - (The Caroling) – arr. Robert DeCormier
Julliard graduate Robert De Cormier was the music director of the New York Choral Society for 17 years. His works range from choral to ballet to Broadway scores and he was the conductor and arranger for Harry Belafonte as well as music director for Peter, Paul and Mary. This traditional Puerto Rican Carol is a carol about caroling, which is a very important part of the Puerto Rican Christmas tradition. In Puerto Rico the celebration of Christmas begins after Thanksgiving and continues until the third week of January, ending on the last day of the St. Sebastian Street Festival in Old San Juan. Anytime during this long Christmas season, friends and neighbors gather together and go from house to house singing Puerto Rican Christmas carols. They all eat and drink at each house and then the host joins the group and they go on to another house to repeat the process.
Something Told the Wild Geese – Andy Beck; words by Rachel Field
An award-winning American novelist, playwright, poet, and author of children's fiction, Rachel Field is best known for her Newbery Award winning Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. She wrote three best-selling novels, all of which were made into movies, and the English lyrics for Franz Schubert's Ave Maria as used in the movie Fantasia. Raised in New England, she was a keen observer of nature, and Something Told the Wild Geese is probably her most beloved poem. Composer Andy Beck has created a touchingly sensitive setting for her poem and added a few words of his own to enhance the piece.
John C. Reim
The Light in the Night – John C. Reim
Composer and teacher John Reim was inspired to create this joyous calypso style retelling of the Christmas story beginning with the shepherds who first saw the light.
Mary, Mary! – Ken Berg
From the Cantata Our Lives Are Longing, Ken Berg's innovative piece begins introspectively wondering what Mary will call her son and then takes off into 1940s Big Band Swing! Music director and resident composer for the Birmingham Boys Choir, Mr. Berg has written more than 150 original works for all ages.
Judith Clurman b. 1953
Stephen Schwartz b. 1948
The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights) – Stephen Schwartz; arr. Ryan Nowlin; words by Steve Young; edited by Judith Clurman
This lyrical and expressive Hanukkah song is by Ridgefield's Stephen Schwartz, one of the most successful composer-lyricists living today. With three Oscars and three Grammys, his Broadway hits include Pippin, Godspell and Wicked while his animated films include Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt and Enchanted. Lyricist Steve Young is an award-winning comedy writer, author and entertainer. Currently a lecturer at NYU, he was a long-time writer for the David Letterman Show, wrote an episode of The Simpsons and wrote the animated Christmas special Olive, the Other Reindeer. Arranger Ryan Nowlin is the staff arranger for "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. Editor Judith Clurman is an Emmy and Grammy nominated conductor, and The Chanukah Song is on her CD, Season of Light.
That's What I Want for Christmas – E.E. Lawrence; arr. Paul Langford
This romantic, jazzy Christmas standard was recorded by Nancy Wilson on the album Let It Snow: Cuddly Christmas Classics From Capitol. Paul Langford, the arranger of this "oldie", has had a career that spans 25 years as a singer, keyboardist, producer and conductor. He has arranged for and performed with the Chicago Symphony, Walt Disney World and many others. He has shared the stage with Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. We have probably all heard his voice on radio and television in commercials for such companies as Ronald McDonald House, Oldsmobile, L.L. Bean, Nintendo, Frigidaire and Nickelodeon.
Believe (from The Polar Express) – Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard
Written for the movie The Polar Express and recorded by Josh Groban, this song won a Grammy Award and was nominated in 2005 for both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Alan Silvestri is best known for his many film collaborations with Robert Zemeckis, including Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and The Polar Express, but he has also composed music for television. Producer and songwriter Glen Ballard has worked with a diverse group of prominent singers including Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin and Andrea Bocelli. He has composed songs for films, including Charlotte's Web and A Christmas Carol and also wrote the lyrics and music for the Broadway play, Ghost the Musical. The fantastic choral arrangement is by Mark Hayes.
1945 - 2015
Down in Bethlehem – John Darin Rowsey; arr. Lari Goss
A prolific songwriter, John Rowsey got his first break in Nashville when one of his songs was recorded and achieved platinum status. He is also a performer, and toured with his wife Shirley in New Journey. A Dove Award winner, he is now part of a trio called The Guardians and has written numerous hits for them as well as other artists. Lari Goss began his career in music as a young boy with the Goss Brothers. An ordained minister, he won a Grammy and numerous Dove Awards and was best known in the Christian music industry as a producer and arranger as well as a master of the keyboard. Down in Bethlehem is included in his collection Child of Wonder. This exhilarating retelling of the Christmas story is filled with the spirit of joy, energy and excitement found only in gospel music!