Thursday, December 2, 2010

Alleluia! Carols around the World: (Abridged) Notes

Alleluia! Carols around the World
Notes on the program

The title of our 27th Season, In Every Corner Sing, comes from the refrain of George Herbert’s poem, Antiphon:

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing
My God and King!

An Anglican priest, Herbert’s poem is modeled on the Psalms, and builds on a poetic tradition with roots in the three central Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our February program will feature a pair of settings of this exuberant poem, but its polyvalent relevance applies to each of our programs. As I noted in my introductory letter [in the program book] above, this season is built on the twin corners of our programming mission: the rich heritage of choral music dating back to medieval times, and the vitality of the tradition’s future in the music of the present.

Our Holiday program features familiar carols and beloved seasonal works from Paul Manz and Franz Biebl. Alongside popular arrangements of Deck the Halls and Silent Night are new carols by Cecilia McDowall and Will Todd. Our own John Dixon has composed a beautiful new work for us, and we are proud to present its premiere performances this weekend. We also celebrate the 75th birthday of the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, whose “holy minimalist” style has captivated the imaginations of performers and listeners around the globe. Writing expressly forbidden sacred music behind the iron curtain of the Soviet Union, Pärt’s music embodies the image of light arising from darkness. Franz Biebl’s beloved, chant-based Ave Maria is performed in its original version for 7 male voices. Another new voice on the program is Vytautis Miskinis, whose appealingly simple treatment of the Ave Maria joins a distinguished list of settings of this timeless hymn to Mary.

While we have programmed a varied repertoire of music from many corners of the world, it would be impossible to do justice to such diversity in a single program. This particular musical journey will take us from the British Isles to the four corners of Europe; from Kenya across the United States. In keeping with the multiple applications of In Every Corner Sing, we also include multicultural readings that focus on light. Light is central to the Abrahamic faiths and a common denominator in many of the world’s holiday traditions. From Hanukkah to the Hindu festival Diwali, Kwanza to the Persian festival Yalda, light, life and newness are celebrated (literally) in every corner of the earth.

There is more than a hint of lightness in our closing “encore” selection by the popular British composer, Jonathan Willcocks. If we failed to include your favorite holiday carol in this program, there’s a good chance you’ll hear it in this engaging medley. We would ask you to sing along, but we think you’ll appreciate it even more by listening to the craft and wit of this winsome arrangement. With that, we leave you with the wish that your holidays be filled with light, the lightness of laughter, and the love of life itself.

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