Rejoice and Sing – Program Notes

Rejoice and Sing

December 2012

Sing We Now of Christmas arr. James E. Clemens
Canite Tuba Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594)
O magnum mysterium Tomàs Luis de Victoria (ca. 1540 – 1611)k
Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28
Wolcume Yole!
There is no Rose
That yongë child
As dew in Aprille
This little Babe
In Freezing Winter Night
Spring Carol
Deo Gracias
Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976)


Alfred Burt Carols
Caroling, Caroling
O Hearken Ye
The Star Carol
Alfred Burt (1920 – 1954)
Heavenly Light Aleksandr Kopylow (1854 – 1911) / arr. Peter Wilhousky
The Forest Raised a Christmas Tree arr. Ray Braswell
On the Mountain Top Blows the Wind Mild arr. René Clausen
Rock Him in the Manger Kirby Shaw
Love Came Down at Christmas Nancy Grundahl (b. 1946)
O magnum mysterium Grant Jahn (b. 1992)
Away in a Manger arr. Matthew Coloton
In ducli jubilo arr. Matthew Coloton
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head Leo Nestor (b. 1948)
All My Heart Again Rejoices David Cherwien (b. 1957)

Program Notes
 – by Cathy Wolfson

Sing We Now of Christmas
The arranger, James Clemens (b. 1966), grew up in Goshen, Indiana. In addition to being a composer, arranger, and music engraver, he accompanies choral groups and soloists, and belongs to the Hymn Society in both the United States and Canada. This lively, lilting carol is based upon a traditional French Provençal melody and is a perfect way to create a festive mood for the rest of our concert!

Canite Tuba
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594) was born in Palestrina, near Rome, and is best known as an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music. His masterful works are considered to be the culmination of Renaissance polyphony. His first published compositions – a compilation of masses – was the first such collection written by a native Italian. He had extensive experience as a chorister, organist and maestro di cappella of the papal choir at St. Peter’s. Palestrina’s prolific body of work include 104 masses, more than 300 motets, madrigals and magnificats. Canite Tuba, part I of the Tenth Motet, is a joyful hymn in 5-part polyphony.

O magnum mysterium
Tomàs Luis de Victoria (ca. 1540 – 1611), born in Avila, Spain, was considered a premier Spanish composer and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation: the Roman Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation sweeping Europe at the time. Victoria spent part of his life in Italy where he was influenced by the Italian style of composition, and may have studied with Palestrina during this time. His career encompasses cantor, choirmaster, organist and maestro of the Roman Seminary where he became an ordained priest in 1574. Victoria was revered and often consulted for his musical knowledge. O magnum mysterium, one of Victoria’s more frequently performed choral works, demonstrates his abilities in both polyphonic and homophonic composition. The harmonies are clear and sparse and highlight the ‘Great Mystery.’

A Ceremony of Carols
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (1913-76), a native of Suffolk, England, was an outstanding pianist, conductor and a prolific composer of hymns, song cycles, choral works, orchestral pieces and operas – including the well-known Peter Grimes. He is considered a giant of 20th century British classical music. Britten was influenced by British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, and was a close friend of Aaron Copland and Dmitri Shostakovich. He wrote many pieces for his musical collaborator and lifelong partner, tenor Peter Pears. A Ceremony of Carols, composed in 1942 during a sea voyage from the United States to England, contains text from a Middle English work entitled An English Galaxy of Shorter Poems by Gerald Bullett. Although Britten originally wrote the pieces as a series of unrelated songs, he later framed them as one work with unifying motifs played by solo harp and other motifs from “Wolcum Yule.” The hauntingly beautiful lullaby “Balulalow,” the driving rhythms of “This Little Babe” and the choral harp-like canon of “Deo Gracias” create a series of carols – each of which is a musical masterpiece.

Alfred Burt Carols
This American composer (1920-1954) was primarily a jazz trumpeter and arranger who is best known for composing a series of Christmas carols between 1942 and 1954. He studied at the University of Michigan, and served in World War II as officer in the Army Air Force Band. During this time he continued the tradition begun by his father of first “publishing” his original carols on the backs of Christmas cards to relatives and friends. His carols contain spiritual themes, which was somewhat unusual for his time. Caroling, Caroling, (which is the most familiar), O Hearken Ye and The Star Carol all share an uplifting joy about the Christmas season. Although they are 20th Century compositions, they ‘hearken’ back (so to speak!) to an earlier era when families gathered around a crackling fire on a cold evening, sharing hot chocolate or cider, and singing together.

Heavenly Light
The composer, Aleksandr Kopylow (1854-1911), was born in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Russia. He was a violinist and chorister who studied with the famous composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and wrote primarily choral compositions and string quartets, as well as the Symphony in C Minor. Arranger Peter Wilhousky (1902-1978) was born in New Jersey to Ukrainian parents, and is most famous for his arrangements of Carol of the Bells and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. This version of Heavenly Light is heavily influenced by the chants of the Russian Orthodox Church; its richly textured harmonies underlie a soaring melody celebrating Jesus being sent down from heaven to each of us.

The Forest Raised a Christmas Tree
Ray Braswell, a bass-baritone who joined ARS in 2008, has arranged this song for ARS. Ray holds a doctorate degree from Virginia Tech, a Master’s in Music from Appalachian State University, has sung with several choral ensembles through the years and was the music director for his church choir in Asheboro, North Carolina. The Forest Raised a Christmas Tree is based upon a Russian folk tune, and tells the story of a magical Christmas tree that shelters a rabbit from a passing wolf. It uses a lilting melody and harmonies to celebrate the delight of children seeing the beautiful Christmas tree, hewed from the woods by a forester.

On the Mountain Top Blows the Wind Mild
The arranger of this piece, René Clausen (b. 1953), was raised in California. After holding various positions in the field of music, he became conductor of the Concordia Choir of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where he also founded the René Clausen Choral School. He is a prolific composer who writes in many styles of choral music, and is widely performed by high school, college, and professional choirs. This piece is a lovely lullaby based upon a folk tune from Silesia, a former Prussian province now located in Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Rock Him in the Manger
Kirby Shaw, a composer/arranger with nearly 3,000 choral compositions/arrangements to his name, received his doctorate in choral conducting from the University of Washington and is currently a faculty member at the College of the Siskiyous in California, where he founded the COS Vocal and Jazz Ensemble. He is an eclectic composer, in classical and jazz styles, and has done scat singing with such notables as Bobby McFerrin and Al Jarreau. Rock Him in the Manger is a syncopated, light-hearted celebration of Jesus’ birth. Toe-tapping is a requirement for enjoying this piece!

Love Came Down at Christmas
The composer, Nancy Grundahl (b. 1946), is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota. She is a soprano soloist, conductor of three choirs in Minneapolis, and a composer of several solo and choral works. This piece is a lyrical arrangement of a traditional Irish carol based upon a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) who was born in London to Italian parents. Rossetti was considered to be the successor of the famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

O Magnum Mysterium
Grant Jahn (b. 1992) is currently a music composition major at the University of Arizona School of Music. In this piece, Jahn uses tone clusters, shimmering harmonies and alternating polyphony and homophony in the style of contemporary choral composers Eric Whitacre and Morton Lauridsen to invoke the great mystery of Jesus’ birth. (See our Concert Program for more information about Grant Jahn.)

Away in a Manger
Matthew Culloton (b. 1976) founded and directs the Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, and is Choirmaster at the House of Good Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. He was honored with the American Choral Director’s Association /Vocal Essence Creative Programming Award, and has been commissioned to compose works for many choral groups, including the Dale Warland Singers. His arrangement of this favorite carol ‘floats’ the melody, sung by the women, over supporting harmonies sung by the men that are mostly traditional (but not always!).

In Dulci Jubilo
Matthew Culloton sets this traditional melody in both the soprano and tenor lines, backed up by interesting harmonies in the other three parts. The alternating English and Latin text, or alternating words from two different languages, is a technique called “macaronic text.” The syncopated rhythms add to the upbeat, celebratory mood of this piece.

Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
Leo Nestor (b. 1948) has musical degrees from California State University and the University of Southern California. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. where he is the founder and director of the professional group, The American Repertory Singers, which specializes in contemporary choral music. His lovely, joyful setting of this traditional Appalachian carol alternates a solo mezzo soprano line supported by a choral arrangement of four-part harmonies. The phrase “all the evil folk on earth sleep in feathers at their birth” contrasts the fact that while some people are born into luxury (feather beds), the Savior of Mankind was born in a lowly manger.

All My Heart Again Rejoices
David Cherwien (b. 1957) is a church organist, conductor, and composer with degrees in organ performance, theory, and composition from the University of Minnesota. He is currently the Director of Music at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, studied with Alice Parker (Robert Shaw Chorale arranger) and has composed a number of pieces for choir and organ. He often plays an entire liturgical service without referring to printed scores, improvising on the spot as the spirit moves him. This piece, arranged for harp and choir, is a joyful paean to Christ’s birth, using syncopated rhythms and quartile and quintile chords in dense harmonies, accentuated by fast-paced passages and trills in the harp accompaniment.

Ave Maria (Angelus Domini)
Franz Biebl was born in 1906 in Pursruck, Germany. His was a large family; he was the 11th child. He held various choral conducting positions in Germany and Austria, and, interestingly enough, spent a few years as a prisoner of war in the United States, during and after World War II, where he was allowed to compose and conduct. Ave Maria, his best-known composition, is a tender and exultant setting of the well-known prayer, with lush, beautiful harmonies.