Day 4: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

Today’s song hits a bunch of my fond spots: English classical music, poetry, a soprano who is more gracious than she is diva-esque, and one of my dearest friends. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) who incorporated medieval and folk music influences in his compositions. The lyrics are by pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti, and it is performed here by Norwegian artist Sissel, whose clear, articulate voice captures just the right feel I think. She is accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. Props to my best friend who is in the cello section.

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Day 3: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

Today we’re tapping into the centuries of Latin church music to commemorate the birth of Christ. This is “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), a Spanish composer of the Counter-Reformation. In answer to Reformation complaints about the excesses of polyphonic church music, one of the goals of the Counter-Reformation composers was to make the text of church music easier to understand as it was also polyphonic. And you can understand these words — that is, if you can understand Latin. If not, however, here you go:

O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio! Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia.
O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!

 

Remembering the victims in Sandy Hook yesterday, I’m including a second selection as well. This is “Requiem aeternum II” from Herbert Howells’ Requiem. Exactly when Howells (1892-1983) composed the work is not entirely known. He worked on it in some form in 1932 and used parts of that composition for a later, larger work, but it seems that the Requiem came at least in part out of the all-consuming grief Howells felt when, in 1935, his nine-year-old son Michael died suddenly of polio. By some accounts he composed the piece, and, in the words of my former choir conductor, “put it in a drawer and left it alone” as though it was too painful to publish or work with more. Several years, even decades later, it was published. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever sung. I hope you enjoy this selection from it. The text is below.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Day 2: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

Today’s song is “A’ Soalin” by Peter, Paul & Mary. The song comes from the tradition of begging for soul cakes door to door on All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day. Each cake eaten represented a soul being freed from Purgatory on or All Souls Day (now observed on Nov. 2). “Soalin” is considered the origin of trick-or-treating. I wish I had known that the more candy I got, the more souls out of Purgatory. I could have used that as a bargaining point with my mom to go longer.

But how come we’re talking about Halloween for a Christmas song? Well, as noted in an unusually astute YouTube comment, “the song has parts of The Wassail Song, Christmas is Coming (The Goose is Getting Fat) and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Hope you love it!

Day 1: 12 Days of Christmas Music 2012

I try to do the 12 Days of Christmas most years, and this year I decided to post a favorite song each day for the 12 Days of Christmas music. (It is very difficult to choose only 12.) The selections will be varied—some more familiar, some less so. You’re a varied bunch yourselves. I realize some of you are traditionalists and some of you are all about the funsies. If you pull more to one end of the spectrum, you’ll like some days better than others, but the music educator in me encourages you to sample all of them with an open mind, curious ears, and a generous heart.

Enjoy!
To kick things off, we have a real winner: “A Musicological Journey through Christmas” by Craig Courtney. It’s the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with each day represented by a different musical style/composition (the picture of Brahms should be of Mozart), and it’s a hoot. This performance is by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

 

The 12 Days of Christmas Music in 2012: 1st day

Good tidings!

I try to do the 12 Days of Christmas most years, and this year I decided to post a favorite song each day for the 12 Days of Christmas music. (It is very difficult to choose only 12.)

The selections will be varied — some more familiar, some less so, but the music educator in me encourages you to sample all of them with an open mind, curious ears, and a generous heart.
To kick things off, we have a real winner: A Musicological Journey through Christmas by Craig Courtney. It’s the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” with each day represented by a different musical style/composition (the picture of Brahms should be of Mozart), and it’s a hoot. This performance is by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Enjoy!