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Program Notes

The text for the hymn Veni, Veni Emmanuel first appeared in the 18th century, but it is based on the much older "O" Antiphons associated with Advent and Christmas, which have their origins in the 9th century. When the antiphons are placed in the reverse chronological order, the first letter (after the "O") forms the acrostic ERO CRAS, literally "tomorrow, I will be" translated here as "I will come!" [see below] Michael John Trotta conceived this piece as a “dialogue between the supplicants and the creator, combination of old and new, juxtaposing a personal longing for something still to come, with the steadfast assurance of something ever-present, yet not always seen.”

“O” Antiphons:

O Emmanuel

O Rex gentium

O Oriens

O Clavis David

O Radix Jesse

O Adonai

O Sapientia

 

Receiving its world premiere on these concerts, Before the Song Was Done is the result of a commission of composer Sarah Quartel by the Fort Worth Chorale. A Canadian composer and educator, Quartel is known for her fresh and exciting approach to choral music. Her works are performed by choirs across the world, and she has been commissioned by groups including the American Choral Directors Association, the National Children's Chorus of the United States of America, and New Dublin Voices. Since 2018 she has been exclusively published by Oxford University Press, and she continues to work as a clinician and conductor at music education and choral events at home and abroad. Quartel set the words of poet Sara Teasdale in a gently rocking depiction of the arrival of kings, shepherds, angels and wisemen to the cradle of the infant Jesus.

 

Star In the East is a set of three Appalachian folk carols arranged by American virtuoso dulcimist and composer Malcolm Dalglish, who describes the piece’s connections with the origins of the hammered dulcimer: “The opening improvisational dulcimer solo of Star in the East provides a great opportunity for the player to reach back to the dulcimer's place of origin over 4000 years ago in the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and play in a style still practiced by the Persian santur players of that region. The santur is the original hammered instrument of the zither family from which the hammer dulcimer was derived.” The opening soprano solo is in the style of an Appalachian singer or Irish balladeer, grandly announcing the birth of Jesus. The familiar tune “Rise Up Shepherd” follows, building to a rollicking climax. A sweet and gentle mostly a cappella setting of “Judah’s Land” closes the set.

 

We feature the organ in Mack Wilberg’s sprightly setting of the 16th-century French carol, Ding! Dong! Merrily on High. The joyful carol text describes the bells of heaven ringing to celebrate the birth of Christ. Wilberg Is the Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Cholr. He Is a former professor of music at Brigham Young University, where he received his bachelor's degree; his master's and doctoral degrees are from the University of Southern California. In addition to his conducting responsibilities, he is active as a pianist, choral clinician, composer, arranger, and guest conductor throughout the United States and abroad. His works have been performed by artists such as Renée Fleming, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, The King's Singers, and narrators Walter Cronkite and Claire Bloom.

 

Born in London, 1951, Cecilia McDowall has won many awards, including winning the Choral category of the British Composer Awards in 2014 for her haunting work, Night Flight, which celebrates the pioneering flight of the American aviatrix, Harriet Quimby, across the English Channel. McDowall’s distinctive style speaks directly to listeners, instrumentalists and singers alike. Her most characteristic works fuse fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance. Setting a 15th-century English text containing some short Latin passages, McDowall’s Now May We Singen is a joyful, dance-like carol with a medieval feel. The spirited, lilting melody begins in the sopranos and altos but is passed around the choir, while the other voices add stirring harmonies and bell-like drones to the texture.

 

Bob Chilcott has become one of the world's most widely performed composers and arrangers of choral music. His compositional output reflects his wide taste in music styles and his commitment to writing music that is both singable and communicative. He was a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King's College, Cambridge, and was a member of the British vocal group The King's Singers, for whom he made a number of popular arrangements of well-known songs from all genres. The text for The Shepherd’s Carol is a beautiful poem by Clive Sansom (1910-81) that narrates the experience of the shepherds, drawn by starlight to the baby Jesus. The lovely, poignant melody of folk-like simplicity is supported by languid and atmospheric harmonies. The effect is a sublime marriage of poetic imagery and music.

 

Stacey V. Gibbs is a prolific and highly sought-after composer and arranger. Best known for arrangements of spirituals, he is highly acclaimed for his ability to infuse new energy into familiar works without sacrificing their authenticity or power. His spirituals have been performed by the United States Air Force Sergeants, The St. Olaf Choir, the Stellenbosch Choir of Africa, and many college, university, high school, and professional ensembles both domestically and internationally. His setting of Way Over in Beulah Lan' was performed at the 57th Inaugural Service for President Barack Obama. Go, Tell It on the Mountain, written for the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, is a swinging arrangement of the familiar Christmas spiritual, with a boisterous ending in Gibbs’ quintessential style.


Our closing number is Jonathan Rathbone’s Carol Medley, made famous by the Swingle Singers. Rathbone was Musical Director and arranger of the group from 1984-96, and this arrangement is typical of the group’s style: a fast paced mashup of tunes, jazz harmonies, and a dizzying number of key changes that highlight the singers’ virtuosity.

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