The DeKalb Choral Guild
P.O. Box 1931
Gifts of the Spirit
Mary Evelyn Root, Director
In conjunction with Arts & Ideas at Oglethorpe University
Saturday, December 12, 1998
This Is My Song from Finlandia by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), arr. Alice Parker and Robert Shaw
Wexford Carol, Irish tune, arr. by Catherine Bennett
How Far is it to Bethlehem? English West Country tune, arr. by
Stephen Paulus (b. 1949), text by Frances Chesterton
Pat-a-Pan, French Burgundian Carol, arr. Robert Batastini
20th Century Christmas Selections
The Blessed Son of God from Hodie by Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872-1958)
Nativity Carol, Op. 77, No. 3 by William Mathias (b. 1934)
Behold the Marvel of this Night by Carl Shalk, text by Jarosalv
This Little Babe from A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Jesus Child by John Rutter (b. 1945)
Selections from Gloria
Gloria by Antonio Vivaldi
The Chamber Singers Selections
Deck the Hall, Welsh Traditional Carol
Gems of Other Traditions
Mary Had a Baby, arr. William Dawson (1898-1990)
Hava Nagilah Israeli Folk Song, arr. Maurice Goldman
Etz Chayim Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) from Avodath
Hakodesh (Sacred Service)
A Little Holiday Cheer
Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John by P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)?
Good King Kong Looked Out by P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)?
The Banquet Fugue from The Reluctant Dragon by John Rutter (b. 1945)
A Little Christmas Music, arr. Darryl Runswick
by Michaelene Gorney
"This Is My Song" is a harmonization of a well-known melody from the orchestral tone poem Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. The DeKalb Choral Guild has proudly adopted this piece as its theme for the season. This particular harmonization is a composite of versions found in The Church Hymnary (Revised, 1927), The Hymnal (Presbyterian, 1933), and Sibelius' own piano score for Finlandia.
Sometime after Mendelssohn's death in 1847, W.H. Cummings purloined a dance-like tune by the composer and fit it to texts by eighteenth century writers Charles Wesley, George Witfield, and Martin Madan. The result was "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," which established itself in 1856 as the standardized and popularly- accepted carol we sing today.
The "Wexford Carol" receives its title from County Wexford, where the tune was first recorded as sung by a French singer. The tune is Irish, but the words, having been revised several times, reflect both English and Irish origins. Unique to Catherine Bennett's arrangement is the insertion of a quadruple meter into what is traditionally a tune in triple meter. Unique to the tune is a shift to the Mixolydian mode (easily heard on the word "bear" in the first verse), a reminder of the ecclesiastical modes of the Middle Ages.
Frances Chesterton's "How Far Is It to Bethlehem?" is set to an English West County tune and is as much a folk song as a carol. As arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the Oxford Book of Carols, it is called "Children's Song of the Nativity." The arrangement, heard today is by Stephen Paulus, former composer-in-residence of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
The melody of "Pat-a-Pan" is that of a French Burgundian carol, "Guilla, pran ton tambourin," from NoŽl Bourgignons de Bernard de la Mannoye, who lived from 1641 to 1728. The "tambourin" in the French translates as "drum" in English and refers to a small, elongated drum, hung from the shoulders, which was originally played with the hands. The tune is also known by the first line of its English text, "Willie, take your little drum."
"The Blessed Son of God" is from Hodie, (This Day), a Christmas cantata for solo voices, chorus and orchestra. Ralph Vaughan Williams, considered an English nationalist, evoked the past in his works but always felt free to apply, in his own fashion, modern techniques of harmony and counterpoint which may be heard in this piece.
"Nativity Carol" is a musical setting of "words traditional" by Welsh composer William Mathias. Though most of his works are for orchestra, Mathias has written many songs, anthems, carols and psalms for both chorus and organ. He was commissioned by Prince Charles of Great Britain in 1981 to write a choral work for his bride, the late Princess Diana.
Carl Schalk is a professor of church music at Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota. An active participant in today's Lutheran musical world, he is renowned for articles and books on church music as practiced today and for his settings of hymns for congregational use. The text of "Behold the Marvel of this Night" was written by Jaroslav Vajda, also an active composer of original church music.
"This Little Babe" from A Ceremony of Carols was written by Benjamin Britten -- as was his "Hymn to Saint Cecilia" -- on a Swedish cargo boat traveling from America to England. An ardent pacifist, Brit ten was returning home to face a government tribunal as a conscientious objector to World War II. He was subsequently exempted from military service provided that he perform as a pianist in a series of wartime concerts.
John Rutter, born in London and educated at Clare College of Cambridge University, is known as the founder of the Cambridge Singers, as a choral conductor, and as a masterful arranger of songs, anthems and carols. His own compositions, written in a traditional style, are almost exclusively choral, but he has also written large orchestral works, opera, pop and light music, and music for BBC television. "Jesus Child" and "The Banquet Fugue," from an "entertainment" called The Reluctant Dragon, are only a sample of his versatility in the effective use of choral voices.
Antonio Vivaldi was a highly renowned composer in his own time and remains so in ours. His hundreds of works include operas, serenatas, oratorios, sonatas and orchestral works, including over 500 concertos. Vivaldi composed two known settings of Gloria in Excelsis Deo for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Tonight's selections are taken from a setting which received its first modern performance in 1939. Since then, it has been one of the mose popular Baroque works for chorus and orchestra in our century.
William Levi Dawson, composer, conductor and trombonist, is well-known for superb arrangements of spirituals, including "Mary Had a Baby." Having run away from his Anniston, Alabama, home to attend Tuskegee Institute, he later organized Tuskegee's School of Music and for 25 years conducted the Tuskegee Choir. In 1934, his Negro Folk Symphony was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, conducting. Dawson was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, receiving a Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement, in 1989.
The tune of "Hava Nagileh" originated with the Chassidim, a sect of Jewish mystics founded in Poland about 1750. According to sources at Atlanta's Jewish Educational Services, the text, which does not lend itself to a literal translation, translates roughly as: "Let's be happy, let's be joyful. Wake up, brothers, with a happy heart." Enthusiasm and awakening through singing together -- hey!
"Etz Chayim," a prayer for peace, is taken from Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) by Ernest Bloch. Bloch used in this work the text of the Jewish Sabbath Service, an extremely old litany of prayers from the Torah, the Prophets, the Psalms and the Talmud. "Etz Chayim" is sung during that portion of the service when the sacred scroll is returned to the Ark. The choral writing is largely declamatory, with the chorus representing the congregation as it responds to the words of the Cantor.
Professor Peter Schickele has this to say of P.D.Q. Bach: "'Nobody's Perfect.' There is no more convincing illustration of that adage than P.D.Q. Bach, whose father Johann Sebastian Bach's record with regard to bringing beauty into the world was otherwise unblemished and perhaps unequaled. P.D.Q. Bach, who was called 'a pimple on the face of music' by his brother J.C. Bach, apparently left no musical form undisturbed. This set of thankfully secular Christmas carols ('Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John,' 'O Little Town of Hackensack' and 'Good King King Looked Out') was probably composed during the final years of P.D.Q's stay in Wein-am-Rhein, a time of transition from the clumsy excesses of the Soused Period to the clumsy excesses of the Contrition Period. As is the case with most of P.D.Q.'s vocal music, the original manuscript has never been found. The only extant copies are those published, in English and without any lyricist or librettist mentioned, by the the composer's old friend Jonathan 'Boosey' Hawkes, who left Wein-am-Rhein and returned to his native Liverpool soon after P.D.Q.'s untimely death. He also married P.D.Q.'s cousin Betty-Sue, but that's another story."
Continuing in the tradition of P.D.Q. Bach, "A Little Christmas Music" is arranged by Darryl Runswick "with apologies to Mozart!" It combines the carol "Deck the Halls" with irreverent references to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the G minor Symphony, showing once again that no one makes better (affectionate) fun of music than a musician. Surely Mozart, with his penchant for practical jokes, would have approved.