Program: #18-50, Air Date: 12/03/18A medieval service for St. Nicholas, Renaissance works from the new ORA recoding, and Apollo’s Fire with "Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain."
I. The Night of St. Nicholas: A Mediaeval Liturgy for Advent (La Reverdie/I Cantori Gregoriani). Arcana CD A442.
The release is a collection of sacred music revolving around Saint Nicolas, most dating from the 13th Century. La Revier and I Cantori Gregoriani deliver performances that are beautiful in their simplicity. The ambiance of the recording site — the Church of San Damaso, Modena, Italy — perfectly matches the music. The reverberation fills the spaces between the notes without blurring them.
I’d almost say these are classic sacred early music performances. There’s the ethereal quality essential to the style. Each selection unfolds at its own unhurried pace.It evokes a sense of timelessness that not only transcends the centuries but the trends of the last 20 years. This release doesn’t sound dated at all. Rather, the sound seems as ageless as the legend it celebrates.
- Adoremus Regem Seculorum - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- Nobilissimis Siquidem Natalibus - Psalmus I - La Reverdie
- Pudore Bono Repletus - Psalmus III - La Reverdie
- Auro Virginum Incestus - Psalmus IV - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- Lectio I - Cantori Gregoriani
- Quadam Die Tempestate - Mox Illis Clamantibus - Cantori Gregoriani
- Vox De Celo - La Reverdie
- Lectio II - La Reverdie
- Confessor Dei Nicholaus - Erat Enim Valde Compaciens - La Reverdie
- Lectio III - La Reverdie
- Ex Eius Tumba - Catervatim - Sospitati Dedit Egros - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- Ex Eius Tumba - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- O Per Omnia Laudabilem Virum - Psalmus CL - Cantori Gregoriani
- Qui Cum Audissent - Clara Quippe Voce - La Reverdie
- Copiose Caritatis Nicholæ - Benedictus - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- O Christi Pietas - Magnificat - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
- Oracio - Sainte Nicolas Godes Druth - La Reverdie/Cantori Gregoriani
II. The Mystery of Christmas: O magnum mysterium (Ora Singers/Suzi Digby). Harmonia Mundi CD HMM 905305.
There are 18 other pieces on the disc–and these days, a choral Christmas program typically focuses on modern works–often by composers you’ve never heard of–along with a few early pieces, here by Byrd and Tallis and several anonymous medieval songs–and something or two or three by established contributors to the genre, here represented by Judith Weir, John Rutter, and Steven Sametz. These compilations, when wrongly chosen and misguidedly organized, sometimes result in a frustrating and disorienting experience for the listener, veering from a standard Britten piece, or Vaughan Williams or Willcocks arrangement, to a wildly dissonant, stylistically “out-there” work by the latest cool King’s College composer fave, and then back again to a traditional version of In the bleak mid-winter or Balulalow.
But not here. Yes, the majority of the works will not be familiar to most listeners–Adrian Peacock’s Venite, Gaudete!; Jamie W. Hall’s As I lay upon a night; Ben Rowarth’s There is no rose; Thomas Hyde’s Sweet was the song; Cecilia McDowall’s Now may we singen; or Fredrik Sixten’s Mary’s Lullaby (Silent Night). But these are almost all thoughtfully conceived and well written and go together as a cohesive concert program–only Roderick Williams’ O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, at seven minutes, seems a bit disorganized and somewhat long for its material–although it has its “moments”. Sixten’s “jazzy” version of Silent Night and Sametz’s appropriately, infectiously lively Gaudete are highlights, as are Richard Allain’s spicy setting of Coventry Carol and the Byrd and Tallis entries (O magnum mysterium and Videte miraculum, respectively).
It’s not easy these days to come up with a new Christmas recording program that will entice and inspire serious fans of this long-established, very specialized genre of choral music–but this one makes a fine and I think very successful effort. And really, the Lauridsen performance is one to be savored.
2. Venite, Gaudete! (A Peacock)
3. O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel (R Williams)
4. Drop down, ye heavens, from above (Judith Weir)
5. Videte miraculum (Tallis)
6. Coventry Carol (Medieval – Anon)
7. Coventry Carol (Allain Richard)
8. Nova, nova (Anon)
9. Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva (James MacMillan)
10. Suzi's Carol (Rutter)
11. As I lay upon a night (Jamie W. Hall)
12. There is no rose (Medieval – Anon) 3'22
13. There is no rose (Ben Rowarth)
14. Sweet was the song (Thomas Hyde)
15. Now may we singen (Anon)
16. Now may we singen (Medieval – Cecilia McDowall
17. Mary's Lullaby (Silent Night) (Fredrik Sixten)
18. Gaudete (Steven Sametz)
19. O magnum mysterium (1994) (Morten Lauridsen)
III. Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain (Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell). Avie CD AV2396.
I. CHRISTMAS EVE AT THE CROSSROADS
1. Christmas Eve Reel (trad. Irish) / Christmas In America (trad. New England) / Old Christmas Eve (trad. Appalachian) – arr. J. Sorrell (3.22)
II. CELTIC MEMORIES: Christmas Eve in Old Ireland
2. The Truth Sent from Above – (trad. British Isles) – lyrics & arrangement by J. Sorrell (5.28)
3. Sheep under the snow / Apples in Winter / Little Christmas Reel (trad. Irish) – arr. R. Schiffer & S.P. Gilmore (4.15)
4. Blow, Northern Wind – Medieval English Lyric, arr. B. Kay (3.30)
5. Don Oiche úd I mBeithil (That Night in Bethlehem) (1.52)
6. That Night in Bethlehem (Don Oiche úd i mBeithil) (trad. Gaelic) – arr. J. Sorrell (3.39)
7. Nowell Sing We, Both All and Some (Medieval English) – arr. J. Sorrell (1.48)
III. CAROLING ACROSS THE WATERS
8. Innesheer / Ships in Full Sail + I Saw Three Ships / New Christmas Reel (trad. Irish) – arr. K. Stewart (3.50)
9. Yorkshire Carol / Somerset Wassail (trad. British Isles) / Kentucky Wassail (trad. Appalachian) – arr. J. Sorrell (5.45)
IV. CHRISTMAS MORNING IN APPALACHIA
10. Bright Morning Stars (Southern folk hymn) (3.12)
11. Christ Child’s Lullaby (Talladh Chriosta) (trad. Scottish & Appalachian) – arr. J. Sorrell & A. Powell (5.47)
12. Frost & Snow / 28th of January / Dominion Reel (trad. Old-Time) – arr. R. Schiffer & T. Bergmann (3.56)
13. Jesus Born in Beth’ny (trad. Appalachian) – arr. J. Sorrell (1.31)
14. Star in the East | The Shepherd’s Star – Shape-Note Hymn from The Southern Harmony, 1835 (3.40)
V. WANDERERS UNDER THE SKY
15. Joseph & Mary (trad. British carol) / I Wonder as I Wander (trad. Appalachian – J. J. Niles) – arr. J. Sorrell (5.07)
16. The Gravel Walk / Over the Isles to America (trad. Scottish reel) (2.34)
VI. CHRISTMAS BARN DANCE
17. Hop High Ladies / June Apple Reel (trad. Appalachian) (2.29)
18. Cold Frosty Morning / Old Christmas / Breakin’ Up Christmas (trad. Old-Time) – arr. R. Schiffer, J. Sorrell,
T. Bergmann (4.18)
19. Bonus Track: The Parting Glass (trad. Scottish/Irish) (2.13)
Byrd, A Peacock, R Williams, Judith Weir, Tallis, Allain Richard, James MacMillan, Rutter, Jamie W. Hall, Ben Rowarth,Thomas Hyde, Cecilia McDowall, Fredrik Sixten, Steven Sametz, Morten Lauridsen
Arcana CD A442, CD HMM 905305, CD AV2396