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Coventry Carol


Choral geniuses celebrate Christmas: Rutter, Lauridsen, Whitacre, Bruckner and more!


Repertoire includes carols arranged by John Rutter, other carols and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto:

Quittez, Pasteurs – arr. John Rutter
Shepherds’ Noel – arr. John Rutter
The Infant King – arr. John Rutter
Stille Nacht (Silent Night) – arr. John Rutter
O Come, O Come Immanuel – arr. John Rutter
Sans Day Carol – arr. John Rutter
Past Three A Clock – arr. John Rutter
Come, O Precious Ransom – Mark Shepperd
The Coventry Carol – Almon C. Bock II
Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre
Virga Jesse Floruit – Anton Bruckner
O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen
‘Christmas Concerto’ Grosso – Arcangelo Corelli

Selections from Twelve Christmas Carols – John Rutter (b. 1945)
“Rutter has become the musical equivalent of Dickens, synonymous with the season.” So wrote Stephen Moss in The Guardian when interviewing John Rutter at Christmas in 2000, celebrating an association that began when Rutter was still a student at Clare College, Cambridge. His composition professor, none other than Sir David Willcocks, sent Rutter’s “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” to Oxford University Press for publication and invited him to collaborate on the four volume Carols for Choirs, thus introducing singers everywhere to Rutter’s marvelous carol settings. Rutter composed the Twelve Carol Settings in 1969 for the Clare College Singers and Orchestra. Their colorful orchestrations add humor and charm to traditional carols from England, France, Austria, and the Catalan. Particularly delightful are the echoes of Tyrolean horns in the Austrian carol, Silent Night and the sounding of the Westminster chimes in the carol of the English night watchmen, Past Three A Clock. When asked to account for the continuing popularity of this Christmas music, Rutter replied “I love Christmas. It’s the child in me…I still feel just in those few magic days a year, that we have the world as it might be.”
Come, O Precious Ransom – Mark Shepperd
The hymn Come, O Precious Ransom first appeared in a hymnal published in 1690 by Johann Olearius in Halle, Germany. Based on Matthew 21:5-9, the text has remained a favorite Advent hymn for over three centuries. In this new arrangement, Mark Shepperd rearranged the familiar text to heighten its drama, placing the fanfare “Hail! Hosanna! David’s Son!” at the center, and ending with the prayer for Christ to enter the believer’s waiting heart. Shepperd serves as Minister of Music at Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury, Minnesota.
Coventry Carol – Almon C. Bock II
This carol comes from “The Pageant of the Shearmen and the Tailors,” a 16th century Coventry Play telling the sad story from Matthew 2:16-18 of King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Attracted to the sturdiness of old English carols and the beauty of their language, Almon Bock created a gentle melody in a major key for the lullaby text, using the traditional minor melody only for the stanza lamenting Herod’s terrible decree.
Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)
For Lux Aurumque, Eric Whitacre turned to an English poem by Edward Esch, saying he was “immediately struck by its genuine, elegant simplicity.” He asked Charles Anthony Silvestri, an American poet, to translate the poem into Latin. Whitacre set this unusual blend of contemporary poetry and ancient language in an A Cappella motet of harmonies that are both modern and mystical, writing in his Note from the Composer that “if the tight harmonies are carefully tuned and balanced they will shimmer and glow.”
Virga Jesse – Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Anton Bruckner subscribed to the Cecilian Movement in choral music, which attempted to restore Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony to Austrian sacred music. Bruckner dedicated this 1885 motet on Psalm 37 to Ignatz Traumihler, founder of the Cecilian Movement. The text is the appointed gradual for the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, celebrating Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Savior.
O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)
The distinctive serenity and mystical beauty of Lauridsen’s choral music have made him the most-performed American choral composer in the world today. He composed O Magnum Mysterium in 1994 for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Lauridsen described this motet as “a quiet song of profound inner joy,” celebrating God’s grace to the meek and lowly in allowing them to be the first witnesses of the Savior’s birth.
Christmas Concerto – Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
In 17th century Italy, a charming tradition arose where the rural shepherds would travel into nearby towns on Christmas Eve to play their pipes in front of the village Nativity scenes. Arcangelo Corelli incorporated this tradition into his Concerto Grosso in G Minor, evoking the shepherd’s pipes in the closing movement, which he subtitled fatto per la notte di Natale,” composed for the night of Christmas.” Officially published as No. 8 in Corelli’s Twelve Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, the work is known and loved today simply as Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.

Program Notes – Yvonne Grover


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