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Holiday Hits: Program Notes

Welcome to our Holiday concert, featuring not only the Greeley Chorale but smaller ensembles and soloists from the choir. We sincerely hope this presentation adds to the joyous spirit of the season! We begin our program with the Gloria by John Rutter, a three-movement work written in 1974 by the man described as “the most successful and well-known composer of choral music in recent British history.” The vibrant and energetic Gloria is a cornerstone of the modern choral repertory. Drawn from the Ordinary of the Mass, the Latin text is exalted, devotional, and jubilant by turns, and the musical setting is based on the Gregorian chant associated with the text. Accompaniment is scored for brass, timpani, percussion, and organ.

What would the Christmas season be without John Rutter? We continue the Chorale portion of our program with his original composition, Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, a work that pre-dates his Gloria. Upbeat and enormously popular with choirs all around the world, it is one of several works of his that contain not only original music, but text as well. Enjoy the story of the shepherd boy merrily piping his way to Bethlehem! Warlock’s Three Carols were not composed as a set. Each was composed as an individual composition. Tyrley, Tyrlow was composed in 1922, and Balulalow was composed in 1919. Ralph Vaughan Williams, conductor of the Bach Choir in 1923, suggested that Warlock compose a set of three carols. Warlock composed The Sycamore Tree and added to the other two to create the trilogy. Another great arranger of English (and American!) choral music was organist and conductor Sir David Willcocks, whose arrangements of Jingle Bells and Sussex Carol we hear tonight. The latter had its origins in the 17th century, but the current folk song melody was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from one of the long-time singers in his choirs. Vaughn Williams was a great collector and arranger of English folk songs and took his trusty new invention - the tape recorder - far and wide through his country into homes and public places (pubs) to gather the tunes. The melody of Hark the Herald Angels Sing was originally set by Felix Mendelssohn in a large work for male choir and brass accompaniment that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press. Soon Charles Wesley adapted the tune into its present form. Tonight’s Angels in Seven is unique in that rather than the traditional 4/4 meter, the arranger has set the melody in seven beats to the bar! Another favorite American arranger is Mack Wilberg, conductor of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and his settings have been enjoyed by choirs from all over the world. His arrangement of the Spanish carol Fum, Fum, Fum is unique in the rhythmic demands it places on the singers. The word “fum” is an onomatopoeia, meaning “the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.” “Fum” is intended to portray the sound made when quickly strumming a guitar! We Wish You A Merry Christmas is likely the best known example of the English “luck” carol, where singers gather at the door of a prominent family and hope to receive some sort of cheer in return, such as “figgy pudding” or more commonly, wassail (or beer!). We conclude the concert with Wilberg’s joyous and upbeat setting of the tune I Saw Three Ships. Note the last verse where the choir sings “And all the bells on earth did ring on Christmas day in the morning” where the arranger has added handbell parts to the voices and four hand piano accompaniment to add to the scene. In the orchestral version, the effects are marvelous with tubular bells, glockenspiel and handbells contributing to the effect!

We give thanks to our patrons and we hope to add a little something to the spirit of this joyous season!

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