Christmas Stocking Stuffers

To listen to this show, you must first LOG IN. If you have already logged in, but you are still seeing this message, please SUBSCRIBE or UPGRADE your subscriber level today.

Program: #20-50   Air Date: Nov 30, 2020

Our annual look at some recent releases for the holiday season.

NOTE: This long-time feature of the program is our occasional look at new releases for the season ahead.

I. Ave Rex Angelorum (The Choir of Keble College, Oxford/Matthew Martin). CRD CD 3537.

In this unique sequence of music for the Christmas season, the choir of Keble College presents a captivating selection of twenty- and twenty-first century choral music, arrangements and well-known carols. The programme, which features several world premiere recordings, reflects the present tradition of grand liturgy at Keble with inflections of plainchant and kaleidoscopic organ accompaniment. The disc was recorded in the great Benedictine monastery of Buckfast Abbey, showcasing its stunning acoustic and magnificent Ruffatti organ.

This is an attractive programme of music following the journey from Christ the King to Epiphany. Martin Baker’s punchy arrangement of Christus vincit provides an arresting opening and sets up the disc for an hour of well-chosen, well-performed music that is a joy to listen to. The choir’s diction is flawless. Most of the music is by 20th- and 21st-century composers, with some plainsong arrangements along the way. What a treat though to hear the Alleluia: Vidimus stellam in its original plainsong setting, sung by the upper voices of the choir: an ethereal performance! Equally impressive is the urgent and powerful account of Britten’s Hymn to St Columba. Matthew Martin’s O Oriens also receives a wonderful performance – the music is given space to breathe; it is an outstanding example of medieval plainsong meeting 21st-century counterpoint. [Ian Munro, Church Music Quarterly]

Recorded in the gloriously resonant space of Buckfast Abbey this is a glorious disc of bold and engaging repertoire. Here is music that captures the mystery and wonder of the festivals and seasons. Martin’s ingenuity as a composer is reflected throughout the disc; his O Oriens is especially striking, exploring many different vocal textures and organ timbres that shed new light on the familiar words and melodies. The plainsong arrangements dotted throughout the programme are compellingly presented; textual clarity and rhythmic fluidity are well combined. Hymns are dramatically realized without ever being over-wrought. The Christmas portion of the disc features works of several familiar names and also familiar words and melodies, yet there is a sense of musical freshness here that is most welcome, The colourful harmonic palate of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Lullaby baby is given an especially fine account. The disc comes to a climax with the title track, Taverner’s brief but arresting work, Ave Rex angelorium, that challenges listeners in its textural juxtapositions, rhythmic complexity and startling conclusion. The choir is more than up to this challenge, and indeed performs with impressive cohesion and clarity throughout, wile the organ accompaniments make excellent use of the Abbey’s organ. This is a disc to savour. *****

Christus vincit – plainsong, arr. Martin BAKER* [2:24]
Ave maris stella – plainsong, arr. Matthew MARTIN* [4:34]
Grayston IVES Nova, nova! [2:40]
Benjamin BRITTEN A Hymn of St Columba [1:59]
Matthew MARTIN O Oriens* [6:42]
Hymn: Lo! He comes with clouds descending [4:58]
Hugo DISTLER Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen [2:42]
Gloria (Mass IX) – plainsong, harm. Matthew MARTIN [3:13]
Matthew MARTIN Nowell sing we [2:35]
The Cherry Tree Carol arr. Stephen CLEOBURY [2:44]
Hymn: Of the Father’s heart begotten [3:17]
Richard Rodney BENNETT Lullaby baby [3:33]
Carl RÜTTI I wonder as I wander [1:39]
I saw three ships – Trad. English, arr. Simon PRESTON [2:02]
Rocking – Trad. Czech, arr. Edward HIGGINBOTTOM [2:30]
Lennox BERKELEY Look up, sweet babe [4:16]
Hymn: Unto us is born a Son [2:07]
Alleluia: Vidimus stellam – plainsong [1:58]
Matthew MARTIN O magnum mysterium * [4:18]
John TAVENER Ave Rex angelorum [2:46]

* World première recording

II. Exaltatio: Christmas Carols. (Dagmar Pecková, s./Musica Bohemica/Jaroslav Krček). Supraphon CD CD SU42852.

The highly acclaimed Christmas CD Nativitas is now joined by a new festive album, bearing the title Exaltatio. While in Colloquial Latin the word means “exaltation” and “elation”, in Christian theology it has a more profound connotation: “elevation”. The mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková has recorded yet another Christmas-themed album, featuring Czech and other European carols and folk songs hailing the Nativity. At Christmas, people feel much closer to one another than at any other time of the year, and it has been so for centuries. The special seasonal atmosphere is what French, German, English and Polish songs have in common. Pecková has again reached for Baroque hymnbooks, in which piety combines with a majestic sublime mood. The album also encompasses much more high-spirited and poetic folk carols. Jaroslav Krcek has made stylistic arrangements, whose singular signature relates to Musica Bohemica. The CD features several Baroque-inspired pieces he himself has composed. The magic of Christmas evidently continues to be celebrated by contemporary creators.

Intermezzo 1

Legenda o narození Páne

Intermezzo 2

Legenda o Marii
Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem
Als ich bei meinen
Noel nouvelet
Deck the Halls
Es ist ein Ros
Una Pandereta
Budme vsetci poteseni
Jezus malusienki
Buh se nyní narodil
Let Us Sing with a Merry Voice
Rok novy zase k nám prisel
Rosu dejte, ó nebesa
Sláva bud, pokoj na nebi
Prolomte se, nebesa
Díte se nám narodilo

Intermezzo 3

Poslyste, krestané
Dej Buh stestí
Usnula, usnula, ja Maria v ráji
The Beautiful Virgin
Bring what ye may
Zvestování Panne Marii
Blessed Be the Lord Jesus Christ
Christmas Eve Is Come
Den preslavny jest k nám prisel

III. Be All Merry (The Choral Scholars of University College, Dublin/Irish Chamber Orchestra/Desmond Earley). Signum CD SIGCD643.

Be all Merry is one of three new pieces especially composed for the Choral Scholars. This lively carol for choir, orchestra and violin by Irish composer Eoghan Desmond evokes the joyful play of Christmas in the lines ‘Be all merry in this house/Exultet celum laudibus!’. The recording contains a remarkable setting of the Advent plainsong hymn Christe Redemptor Omnium for tenor solo, chorus, violin and violoncello by Ivo Antognini, crafted for Choral Scholars with the kind support of the Swiss Embassy in Dublin. The Adoration of the Magi by American composer Timothy Stephens is a breathtaking setting of W. B. Yeats’ poetry. A beautiful Irish-language lullaby – Cró na Nollag – set by father and son, Adhamhnán and Uinseann Mac Domhnaill, and the much-loved Scottish tune simply titled Suantraí, are also included. The Irish Chamber Orchestra are also featured on a number of tracks including The Wexford Carol and Carol of the Bells. The choir closes the album with the song most associated with friendship, hope and the promise of a new year, Auld Lang Syne.

1 In Dulci Jubilo   03:34
2 Be All Merry   03:20
3 God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen   01:54
4 Curoo Curoo   03:15
5 The Adoration of the Magi   05:53
6 Suantrai?   02:34
7 The Wexford Carol   04:52
8 O Magnum Mysterium   04:33
9 Christe, Redemptor Omnium   05:24
10 Cro? na Nollag   02:37
11 Carol of the Bells   02:09
12 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas   02:57
13 We Toast the Days   02:53
14 Auld Lang Syne   03:52

IV. Chanticleer Sings Christmas (Chanticleer) Warner Classics CD 0190295228880.

Chanticleer’s Christmas concerts have become an institution in America. As the San Francisco Chronicle has written, “It’s impossible to resist the voices of Chanticleer.” Over the 42 years since Chanticleer was established in San Francisco, the 12-man group has become a fixture of the festive season, notably clocking up more than 300 broadcasts each December on America’s National Public Radio. Meanwhile, international tours and recordings have made the name of Chanticleer – derived from a clarion-voiced cockerel in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – familiar to audiences all over the world.

Chanticleer’s former Music Director, William Fred Scott, says that: “Christmas for Chanticleer has always been a season of song, an exciting flurry of travel, reconnecting with old friends, and thinking how best to present this timeless story to countless listeners.”

In the words of Gramophone magazine, “Chanticleer, it seems, can sing just about anything”. The characteristically rich and varied program of Chanticleer Sings Christmas, Chanticleer’s 8th Christmas album, embraces traditional carols and gospel numbers, plainsong, European and Mexican music of the 16th and 17th centuries, and composers and arrangers of the present day. The featured carols have their roots in the USA, Quebec, German, Spain and South America, and among the composers are Praetorius, Victoria, Hassler, Byrd, Manchicourt and the contemporary Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Steven Sametz and Rosephanye Powell.

1. Plainsong Quem terra, pontus æthera
2. Jakob Handl (known as “Gallus”) Canite tuba in Sion
3. Tomás Luis de Victoria Ne timeas Maria
4. Hans Leo Hassler Dixit Maria ad Angelum
5. Peter Philips Gaudens gaudebo
6. Carol, Trad. American, arr. Robert Shaw and Alice Parker Away in a Manger
7. William Byrd Ecce virgo concipiet
8. Jacob Regnart Ave Regina Caelorum
9. Arr. Lewis Redner/William Fred Scott/Ralph Vaughan Williams O Little Town of Bethlehem
10. Trad. Canadian, arr. Mark Sirrett D’où viens-tu, bergère?
11. Trad. Spanish, arr. Robert Shaw and Alice Parker Hacía Belén va un burrico
12. Trad. Spanish, arr. Robert Shaw and Alice Parker La Virgen lava pañales
13. Nicolas Saboly, arr. Robert Shaw and Alice Parker Touro-louro-louro!
14. Michael Praetorius, arr. Harry Christophers Quem pastores laudavere
15. Pierre de Manchicourt Reges terrae
16. Carol, Trad. German, arr. Robert Shaw and Alice Parker Susanni, Susanni
17. Jaakko Mäntyjärvi Staffan var en stalledräng
18. Trond Kverno C orpus Christi Carol
19. Steven Sametz Gaudete, from “Two Medieval Lyrics”
20. Rosephanye Powell A Christmas Medley
21. Anonymous, arr. Piotr Nawrot Dulce Jesús Mío