Christmas Connection: Noel

Christmas Connection: Noel

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Event Details

Date: December 16, 2017

Start time: 15:00

End time: 17:00

Venue: Old South Church, Copley Square

Coordinates: 42.3502705,-71.0801606

Tickets are an additional $5 when purchased at the door or free with proof of an EBT card.
Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 3:00 PM
Old South Church, Boston

Boston Choral Ensemble's annual holiday concert is always an audience favorite, so you're sure to love Christmas Connection: Noel, an afternoon of festive carols for choir and audience, and readings for the season. This year, we're excited to have special guest host Bill Littlefield, of NPR's Only a Game. The concert is preceded by an organ recital by Boston Choral Ensemble artistic director Andrew Shenton, beginning at 2:30pm. Featuring music by Whitacre, Gjielo, Sandström, and Howells, the concert continues our season's theme of Connections with two motets for Christmas by Francis Poulenc (featured in our November concert, Fête) and a setting of Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming by Hugo Distler (from our March concert). Don't miss this year's one performance of Christmas Connection: Noel

Bill Littlefield - Host of NPR's Only a Game

Program

The concert starts at 3:00 PM. It will be preceded by an organ recital by Andrew Shenton, starting at 2:30PM.

 

RECITAL PROGRAM

J. S. Bach -  In dulci jubilo, BWV 729

Dietrich Buxtehude - In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 197

Richard Purvis - Prelude on “Greensleeves” 

Raymond H. Haan - We three kings of orient are

W. S. Lloyd Webber - Interlude on the "Coventry Carol"

Pietro Yon - Pastorale "Gesù Bambino" (Adeste fideles)

Eric Thiman - Postlude on “Adeste fideles”

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CONCERT PROGRAM

Congregational carol: O come all ye faithful (arr. David Willcocks) 

Traditional English Carol (arr. Ola Gjeilo): In the bleak midwinter 

Hugo Distler: Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen 

Jan Sandström: Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

Traditional (arr. Edgar Pettman): Gabriel's Message

Giles Swayne: Magnificat

Herbert Howells: A spotless rose

Congregational carol: The first nowell (arr. James O'Donnell)

Francis Poulenc: O magnum mysterium

Eric Whitacre: Lux aurumque

Francis Poulenc: Videntes stellam

Dan Forrest (arr.): O little town of Bethlehem

Congregational carol: Hark! The herald angels sing (arr. David Willcocks)

Adolphe Adam (arr. René Clausen):  O holy night

Mykola Leontovich: Carol of the bells

J. Pierpont (arr. Ralph Allwood): Jingle bells

Program Notes

Es ist ein Rose - Distler

Hugo Distler (1908-1942) began his musical career at the Leipzig Conservatory as a conducting student from 1927-1931. After some consideration and encouragement from his teachers, Distler shifted focus from conducting to composition. Upon graduation, Distler accepted an organist post at the St. Jacob Church in Lübeck where he worked alongside his influential colleague, Bruno Grusnick. During his tenure at St. Jacob’s, Distler accompanied the choir at St. Jacob that often programmed the music of Heinrich Schütz, Leonhard Lechner, and other German baroque composers. Distler’s frequent study of the music of these composers greatly influenced his compositional voice for the remainder of his career. In 1937, Distler left his organ post and accepted a lecturing position at the Württemburg Hochschule für Musik in Stuggart. After a short stint, Distler moved on to Berlin where he accepted a conducting position for the State and Cathedral Choir. Living under the Nazi regime took a major toll on Distler’s mental health.  Distler grew quite depressed from the constant death threats to his friends and family. Tragically, Distler took his own life at the age of 34.

Es ist ein Rose is an a cappella setting of the Praetorius tune ‘Lo, How a Rose.” Distler’s setting is excerpted from a larger work, Die Weihnachtsgeschicte, Op. 10 (an a cappella setting of the ‘Christmas Story). Distler borrows much from Praetorius’ setting, yet he varies from Praetorius’ by setting the verses in a simple polyphony. The text connects directly to the prophecy of the Messiah foretold in Isaiah 11. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Distler’s setting colors the text through simple ascents in the melody at cadences. At the conclusion of the first two phrases, the tenor voice ornaments the cadence by an ascending gesture. This gesture evokes the blooming rose depicted in the scripture.

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem - Forrest

Dan Forrest (b. 1978) has been described as having “an undoubted gift for writing beautiful music…. that is truly magical” (NY Concert Review), with works hailed as “magnificent, very cleverly constructed sound sculpture” (Classical Voice), and “superb writing…full of spine-tingling moments” (Salt Lake Tribune). Since its first publication in 2001, Dan’s music has sold two million copies, and is well established in the repertoire of choirs in the U.S. and abroad. Dan holds a doctoral degree in composition from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in piano performance. His academic background includes several years as a professor and department head (music theory and composition) in higher education.  More information about Dan and his work can be found at www.danforrest.com.

O Little Town of Bethlehem is an arrangement of the hymn bearing the same name.  This note, found on the composer’s website, states “Dan’s unique treatment of one of our most treasured Christmas Carols offers a poignant musical picture of that glorious night in Bethlehem. The gentle scoring for SATB choir and piano with B-flat clarinet feels almost tinged with a bit of jazz influence.”

 

In the Bleak Midwinter – Ola Gjeilo

Ola Gjeilo (1978) is a Norwegian-born composer who currently resides within the United States. Gjeilo composes for all musical mediums, but he is most well-known for his choral compositions and arrangements. Some of his well-known choral works include, The Sunrise Mass, Dreamweaver, and The River; all compositions for choir and strings. In his first arrangement on our program, Gjeilo arranges the adored song, In the Bleak Midwinter by Gustav Holst, for two choirs, a cappella. Gjeilo’s arrangement differs from others like it in how he treats the accompanying voices. The melody, in the soprano voices, remains in the foreground while the lower voices, in both choirs, provide accompanying harmony. At the beginning, the lower three voices in the first choir sustain long tones, while the second choir sings the text syllabically, as if it were an echo. As this arrangement progresses through the verses, the choirs exchange roles, but the warm, sonorous texture remains constant throughout. The arrangement grows in dynamic to the text, “what can I give him,” emphasizing the desire, within the text, to give our heart to the newborn Jesus. Before the concluding verse, the arrangement ebbs back to the placid texture established from the beginning. As the close draws near, Gjeilo writes a soaring, yet still soprano solo line, expanding the texture one final time before the concluding chord on “heart.”

 

Francis Poulenc

Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963) was a French composer and pianist. Poulenc is mostly self-educated, teaching himself piano from an early age. Although Poulenc’s parents intended him to work within the family’s pharmaceutical practice, they encouraged his musical studies throughout his childhood. By the age of eighteen, both of Poulenc’s parents had died. His piano teacher, Ricardo Viñes, became his mentor and parental figure throughout Poulenc’s life. After the death of his parents, Viñes encouraged Poulenc to compose and further explore his musical interests. In 1917, Poulenc debuted his first publicly performed composition, Rapsodie nègre. From this performance, Poulenc began gaining the admiration of the fellow Parisian composers, Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel. The respect and acclaim garnered from his Parisian contemporaries propelled his compositional career for the rest of his working life. His orchestral works, ballets, and operas were quite popular within his lifetime. Yet, due to his humorous and light-hearted personality, his sacred works were under performed and oft forgotten. It is only within the past three decades that Poulenc’s sacred choral music has firmly planted itself within the Western choral music canon.

On this program, we perform two motets from Poulenc’s Quartre Motets pour le temps de Noël (Four Motets for the time of Christmas). Written in the fall of 1951, these motets are simple in texture, yet complex in harmonic contour. In all four motets, Poulenc sets reponsporial chants from within the Catholic liturgy. However, Poulenc omits the melodic content of the chant and only sets the text for his motets. The first motet in the set, ‘O magnum mysterium (O Great Mystery) speaks towards the mystery of Christ’s birth from the Virgin Mary. Marked tres calme et doux (very calm and soft), Poulenc’s setting simmers at a low dynamic for much of the work. Oddly enough, Poulenc reserves the louder dynamics for curious points within the text.  In the final cadence, the choir reaches its loudest dynamic on the word “jacentem” (laying; as in a manger). At the other side of the spectrum, excerpts of the text refer to Jesus or the newborn are set to much softer dynamics. This bizarre and curious setting of the chant provides a decent insight into Poulenc’s curious style and humor integrated into his compositions.

The third motet, Videntes Stellam, is quite simple and restrained at the outset. The text, Videntes Stellam Magi, is an Ambrosian chant and refers to the three wise men seeing the star, told in the Gospel of Luke. Poulenc sets the opening phrase for soprano, alto, and tenor. This is Poulenc’s somewhat obvious depiction of the three wise men, seeing the Star of Bethlehem. Poulenc’s setting is structured in an ‘ABBA’ form; (A represented by music sung by the Soprano, Alto, and Tenor; B represented by music sung by all four parts.) In each B section, Poulenc sets the text of the chant in its entirety, yet strays further away harmonically with each stanza of the chant. At the concluding ‘A’ section, Poulenc subtly brings back the three sings with the opening music, representing the shining star of Bethlehem.

 

Herbert Howells

Herbert Howells decided at a young age that he wanted to compose music and then sought out musical training. His most important teacher was the cathedral organist at Gloucester, Herbert Brewer, and he became Brewer's assistant. At the age of 20, he entered and won an open scholarship competition at the Royal College of Music.  His compositional style quickly emerged: it is in the tradition of modal, folk-based music that is sometimes called "English pastoralist," continuing the trends of Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams. His imagination was often stimulated by particular places and by people he knew. This holds true even for his large body of church music, which was not inspired by religious sentiments ("I am not a religious man any more than Ralph was," he once said). It is probable that he wrote so much church music simply because he liked choral writing and his style is rich and melodic.

After Holst's death in 1934, Howells was chosen to succeed him as director of music at St. Paul's School and in 1954, he was named King Edward VII Professor of Music at the University of London. He was made Commander of the British Empire in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II. He retired from his St. Paul's position and the University of London post in 1964, but retained his professorship at the Royal College of Music and held classes there almost right up to his death at the age of 90. – Biography by Joseph Stevenson

Notes on A Spotless Rose excerpted from Phillip A. Cooke, Composer and Lecturer at Aberdeen University.

A Spotless Rose is one of Howells’s most well-known and enduring works, a tender, if somewhat slight unaccompanied choral piece that encompasses much of Howells’s early choral writing and points towards the glories of Collegium Regale and beyond…

The piece was written in 1919 and is one of the Three Carol-Anthems, a set which includes the equally melodious Here is the little door and Sing Lullaby, but it is A Spotless Rose that stands out amongst the others. It is a simple setting of the anonymous fifteenth-century poem about Jesus’ birth and the purity of Mary, and the naivety of the words seem to give Howells the springboard to create something that appears the model of simplicity on the surface, but hides a deeper complexity…The harmony moves seamlessly from a modal E major to the minor before returning to the major for the end of the first verse… The second verse has a stunning baritone solo that brings a radiant glow to the music, but the skill is in the accompaniment given by the rest of the choir – understated again, but not a note out of place – again pointing towards similar sections in later works.

Perhaps the most celebrated moment of the piece is the very end, in fact the final cadence – this cadence (on the words “cold winter’s night) is one of Howells’s most sublime and affecting moments and the composer Patrick Hadley famously wrote to Howells saying “I should like, when my time comes, to pass away with that magical cadence.” The cadence itself moves from A minor to E major through some wonderfully piquant suspensions and unusual dissonance resolutions, all with a good helping of emotion and ‘feeling’ – it is mature Howells through and through and it is indeed wonderful.

 

Jan Sandström

Jan Sandström is among the most frequently performed Swedish composers on the international scene today. The Motorbike Concerto for trombone and orchestra (1988–89) is one of the most spread Swedish orchestral works of all times, with over 600 performances to its credit since its premiere in 1989. Sandström's catalogue includes music for various ensembles, for choir, opera, ballet and for radio theatre - but above all for orchestra, with or without soloist. The second trombone concerto, Don Quixote (1994) likewise written for Christian Lindberg, and the two trumpet concertos (1987 and 1992/96) for Håkan Hardenberger are also widely performed.

Sandström was born in Vilhelmina in Lapland on 25 January 1954 and grew up in Stockholm. He began his university education by studying counterpoint in Stockholm (with Valdemar Söderholm) and then went north, to the top of the Gulf of Bothnia, studying at University School of Music in Piteå from 1974 to 1976. He completed his training back at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, studying music theory (1978–82) and composition with Gunnar Bucht, Brian Ferneyhough and Pär Lindgren (1980–84). In 1982, he was asked to join the developing of new music of the young and expanding University School of Music in Piteå. So, he returned there teaching composition and music theory (1985–89), and after a year out, in Paris (1984-85); he was appointed professor of composition at the university 1989. Different lines of composing co-exists in Sandström’s music. Minimalism, Eastern philosophy as well as the world of serialism were early influences on his music. For many years Sandström also worked at developing the form of overtone harmony that is known as spectral analysis.

  • Excerpted from composer’s Website: http://www.jansandstrom.com/theperson.html

Lo, how a rose is a double choir setting of the Praetorius (aforementioned) “Es ist ein Ros.” Sandström utilizes the two choirs quite differently. In this first choir, Sandström sets the Praetorious motet in its entirety, performed in English. In the second choir, Sandström writes c.b.c.h (shorthand for singing with closed mouths). The second choir serves like a “choral drone.” It not only supports the Praetorius tune, but it, uniquely, anticipates the changes in harmony. Sandström’s setting is quite slow, yet quite stunning in its stillness. The lack of rhythmic activity accentuates the quiet serenity within the original tune and Sandström’s arrangement.

 

Giles Swayne

Giles Swayne was born in Hertfordshire in June 1946. His infancy was spent in Singapore and Australia, his later childhood in the Wirral and in Liverpool, and at boarding-school in Yorkshire. He began composing when he was ten, and in his teens was greatly helped by his cousin, composer Elizabeth Maconchy. He studied the piano with Gordon Green, Phyllis Hepburn, James Gibb and Vlado Perlemuter. On leaving Cambridge in 1968 he won a composition scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he studied with Harrison Birtwistle, Alan Bush and Nicholas Maw. On leaving the RAM, he worked as an accompanist & repetiteur, and was on the Glyndebourne music staff in the 1973 and 1974 seasons. In 1976-77 he made visits to the Paris Conservatoire to study with Olivier Messiaen.  In 1980 his huge piece CRY for twenty-eight amplified voices (dedicated to Messiaen) was premièred by the BBC Singers under John Poole. Widely hailed as a musical landmark, it has been performed many times in Britain (twice at the London Proms, in 1983 and 1994) and many times in Europe and America. The 1985 recording was issued first on vinyl and then on CD by NMC Records. In 1981 Swayne made a field trip to Casamance (southern Senegal) to record the music of the Jola community; these recordings are in the British Library’s Sound Archive and available online. Between 1990 and 1996 he lived in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where he built a house at Konkonuru in the Akuapem Hills – a house now owned by Rita, widow of Bob Marley.

Swayne now lives in London with his wife & duo-partner, violinist Malu Lin. From October 2001 to June 2014 he taught composition at Cambridge University; for the last eight years of that period he was Composer-in-residence at Clare College.

A Note on the Work from the Composer:

Magnificat I was written in 1982 in response to a commission from Christ Church, Oxford, whose choir gave the first performance in July 1982 under Francis Grier. Since then it has been performed and recorded by many choirs. It is scored for a cappella voices in eight parts, and sets the Latin text.

At that time, I was still reeling from the impact of my belated encounter with African music and the composition (two or three years earlier) of CRY. At the end of 1981 I had spent two months in Southern Senegal and The Gambia, researching and recording music of the Jola people of that region; these recordings are now in the sound archive of the British Library and available to the public. One of the songs I heard during this trip was a work-song called O Lulum which I recorded in a small village called Badem Karantabaa, about thirty miles south-east of the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. I used the opening call of this song to begin Magnificat I; it also returns as a refrain towards the end of the piece. This apart, the music is built up in polyrhythmic layers which owe a great deal to the choral songs of the Ba-Benzele pygmies of the Congo region.

Lux Aurumque - Eric Whitacre:

Eric Whitacre (1970) is an American Composer known for his wind ensemble, orchestral, and choral music. In 2009, Whitacre created the “Virtual Choir” by asking for singers to submit recordings of themselves singing his well-known choral works, Sleep and Lux Aurumque, while they watched a pre-recorded video of Whitacre conducting. In its first two performances, Whitacre selected approximately 200 singers from across the world. The latest performance of the Virtual Choir has approximately 6000 singers.

Lux Aurumque is one of Whitacre’s most well-known choral works. Sung in Latin, the text is an English poem by Edward Esch that describes the light surrounding the newborn Jesus as “warm and heavy as pure gold.” In a minor key, the work opens on the word “Lux” (light) with the lower three voices stacked in close proximity, a hallmark of Whitacre’s musical language. Whitacre uses gradual dynamic swells while gently expanding the choral writing to depict the shimmering glow of the “light around the newborn.” As the work progresses, the music continues to ebb and flow, until a long and gradual crescendo to the word, “angeli” (angel). Whitacre effectively achieves this crescendo not only by expanding the distance between the highest and lowest pitches, but he also creates chordal sonorities that have upwards of seven or eight pitches in one chord. In doing this, the word “angeli,” written on a major chord, sounds purer, given a major chord is constructed using only three pitches. After the long crescendo, the closing section begins a much softer dynamic, gradually getting softer to an almost inaudible final chord.

 

Carol of the Bells - Mykola Leontovich:

Mykola Leontovich (1877 – 1921) was a Ukrainian composer who specialized in a cappella choral music. By far, his most well-known composition is Schredryk (Carol of the Bells). While “Carol of the Bells” has been immensely popular, his other works never garnered the same attention. Along with many of his contemporaries during his lifetime, Leontovich was fascinated with folk songs of his home country, Ukraine.  Many of his compositions, including Carol of the Bells, incorporate folk melodies or dance rhythms from the Ukrainian Folk tradition.

Texts & Translations

Congregational Carol: O, Come All Ye Faithful (Words and melody by J. F. Wade, arr. David Willcocks)

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of light
Lo he abhors not the virgin's womb:
Very God, begotten, no created.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

 

Gustav Holst: In the bleak midwinter (Christina Rossetti)

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.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, 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;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

 

Hugo Distler (arr): Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Traditional German text, melody by Michael Praetorius)
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse kam die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

A rose has sprung up,
from a tender root,
As the old ones sang to us,
Its strain came from Jesse
And it has brought forth a floweret
In the middle of the cold winter
Well at half the night.

 

Jan Sandström (arr.): Lo, how a rose e’er blooming (Traditional German text, melody by Michael Praetorius)
English translation by Theodore Baker

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the nigh.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

 

Traditional (arr. Edgar Pettman): Gabriel's Message

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame,
All hail, said he, thou lowly maiden Mary!
Most highly favoured Lady, Gloria!

For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honour thee,
Thy son shall be Emmanuel by seers foretold,
Most highly...

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name."
Most highly...

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say,
Most highly...

 

Giles Swayne: Magnificat (Gospel according to Luke 1:46-55)
Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.

Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus,
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.

Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae,
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto: sicut erat in principio,
Et nunc, et semper: et in Saecula saeculorum. Amen

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath helpen his servant Israel:
As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen.

 

Herbert Howells:  A spotless rose (Translation of Es ist ein Ros by Catherine Winkworth)

A Spotless Rose is growing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers' foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter,
And in the dark midnight.

The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary, purest Maid;
Through God's great love and might
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter's night.

 

 

Congregational carol: The first nowell (English traditional text arranged by James O'Donnell)

1. The first Nowell the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep:
Refrain
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

2. They looked up and saw a star,
Shining in the east, beyond them far:
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night: [refrain].

3. And by the light of that same star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star whersoever it went: [refrain].

5. Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon their knee,
And offered there in his presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense: [refrain].

6. Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought: [refrain].

 

Francis Poulenc: O magnum mysterium (responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas)

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscerameruerunt portare
Dominum Iesum Christum. Alleluia!

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear
our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

 

Eric Whitacre: Lux aurumque (English poem by Edward Esch, Latin Translation by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Lux,
calida gravisque
pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli
molliter modo natum.

Light,
warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.

 

Francis Poulenc: Videntes stellam (Ambrosian chant for Epiphany)
Videntes stellam magi gavisi sunt gaudio magno,
et intrantes domum obtulerunt Domino aurum, thus et myrrham.

When they saw the star the wise men were greatly delighted,
and they entered the house and offered to the Lord gold, francincense, and myrrh.

 

Dan Forrest (arr.): O little town of Bethlehem (Text by Philips Brooks, tune by Lewis Redner)

1 O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

2 For Christ is born of Mary
and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wond'ring love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth.

3 How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still
the dear Christ enters in.

 

Congregational Carol: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

 

Adolphe Adam (arr. René Clausen):  O holy night (Text by Placide Cappeau, translated by John Sullivan Dwight)

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

 

Mykola Leontovich:  Carol of the bells (Peter J. Wilhousky)

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away
Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold.
Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling.
One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air.
Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale.
Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here.
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas,
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas.
On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home.
Ding dong ding... dong!

 

Arr. Ralph Allwood: Jingle Bells (Text and music by James Lord Pierpont)

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way,
Bells on Bobtail ring,
Making spirits bright;
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Now the ground is white;
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls tonight,
And sing a sleighing song.
Get a bob-tailed bay,
Two-forty for his speed;
Then hitch him to an open sleigh and
Crack! You’ll take the lead.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.