Christmas Concert 2007

German Carols

Singt und Klingt
Praetorius (1571-1621)
Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen

Michael Praetorius was a prolific composer whose works show the influence of contemporaries Samuel Scheidt and Heinrich Schütz as well as the Italians. Included in his compositions are the nine volume Musae sioniae (1605-10), a collection of over a thousand chorale and song arrangements and many other works for the Lutheran church. Terpsichore (1612), a compendium of over 300 instrumental dances, is his most widely-known, and sole surviving, secular work.

Singt und Klingt is a vigorous carol in simple time, with sustained parts reminiscent of church bells. The mixture of Latin and high German text is not uncommon in German carols of this era.

Sing your psalms to Christ, The begotten Son of God,
Sing your psalms to the Redeemer,
To the Lord, the little Child lying in a manger bed.
A small Child lies in the manger. All the blessed angels fall before Him and sing.

Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen is a traditional German carol evoking the image of Jesus as the rose.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death
He saves us, and lightens every load.

In Dulci Jubilo
Robert Lucas de Pearsall (1795-1856)
(adapted by Reginald Jacques)

Pearsall was an English composer, a Romantic in the true sense of the word. He had antiquarian interests, a noted rejection of the modern industrialising world around him and pursued an older aesthetic in his composition.

The original melody, employed as a cantus firmus in this piece, is to be found in an old German book published in 1570. Even in this book, it is referred to as “a very ancient song for Christmas-eve” so there can be no doubt that it is one of those Roman Catholic melodies that Luther, on account of their beauty, retained in the protestant service. It was sung in processions, and still is in those remote parts of Germany where people yet retain old customs. The words are written half in Latin and half in the upper German dialect.
(Notes are paraphrased from Pearsall’s own writing, 1837).

Mary and Child

O Magnum Mysterium
Morten Lauridsen (1943 – )

Morten Lauridsen is an American composer of Danish ancestry. He is a long-time professor of Composition at University of Southern California, and also held the position of Composer in Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994 to 2001. Lauridsen is arguably one of America’s most-performed contemporary choral composers, and writes both sacred and secular music.

O Magnum Mysterium is a responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas.

O most awesome mystery and sacrament divine and most wondrous:
That animals should look and see the Lord a babe newborn beside them in a manger laid.
O how truly blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear and bring forth the Lord Christ Jesus. Alleluia!

Hymn to the Virgin
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Britten was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the son of a dentist and a talented amateur musician. His birthday is the feast-day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, and he showed musical gifts very early in life, composing prolifically, so that by the age of 11 he had composed six string quartets and ten piano sonatas. In 1927, he began private composition lessons with Frank Bridge. He also studied, but less happily, at the Royal College of Music under John Ireland and to a lesser extent, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Of all Britten’s choral works, A Hymn to the Virgin (dated 1930) perhaps comes nearest to the traditional conception of English Church music. Based on an anonymous text, its antiphonal echo effects (by way of a semi-chorus sung in Latin) and regular bar-groups give this delightful work a naïve and gentle form of expression that is direct in its appeal and totally persuasive in its language.

Arvo Pärt (1935- )
Bogoroditse Djevo

Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia. His compositions can be divided into three distinct periods, the latest of which appears to have arisen out of a deep personal crisis in the early 1970s. His response to this religious impasse was to immerse himself in plainsong, Gregorian chant and early Renaissance polyphony. He also joined the Russian Orthodox Church. The music that emerged from Pärt in this period is often identified as “mystic minimalism”. He is considered a pioneer of this style, along with contemporaries Henryk Górecki and John Tavener. Pärt himself describes this style as tintinnabuli — like the ringing of bells. The music is characterised by simple harmonies, straight forward rhythms, frequent unadorned single notes, or triad chords which form the basis of western harmony.

The Magnificat, set in Latin, is a typical example of tintinnabuli, with sopranos providing a meditative bell-like repetition.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, My spirit rejoices in god my saviour. He has looked with favour on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his are and has scattered the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel to remember his promise of mercy, the promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children for ever.

The second of Pärt’s pieces, the brief Bogoroditse Djevo is sung in Church Slavonic. Also a setting of a Marion text, it contrasts with the previous piece, employing punctuated rhythms and strident, doubled-octave chords.

Rejoice Virgin Mother of God, Fount of grace.
Mary, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
You have given birth to the saviour of our souls.

New Zealand Christmas Works

I sing of a Maiden
Richard Madden (1953- )

Richard Madden was born in Dunedin, and educated at Otago Boys’ High School (1966-71) and the University of Otago (1971-6). He studied composition with Don Byars and Edwin Carr and singing with Honor McKellar, graduating BMus (Hons).
Madden was Head of Music at St Hilda’s Collegiate for many years and now teaches at Columba College. He currently directs both the Knox Choral Scholars and the Royal Dunedin Male Choir, and conducts the Sinfonia Academy Strings.

Both of Madden’s settings for these beautiful texts employ lilting melodies and close harmonies, conveying a sense of peace and devotion. Madden notes that he was inspired to write I sing of a Maiden by his childhood memories of singing Patrick Headley’s setting, and the image of dew settling softly, gradually becoming apparent.

People Look East
Jack Body (1944- )

Jack Body studied at Auckland University with Ronald Tremain and at Victoria University of Wellington with Douglas Lilburn in the electro-acoustic studio before working with Kagel in Cologne and the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht, Netherlands. He then attended the Ferien Kurse fur Neue Musik, and, for two years, was a guest lecturer at the Akademi Musik, Indonesia. Since 1980 he has lectured at the School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington.
Body’s music covers many genres, including solo and chamber music, opera, orchestral music, music-theatre, music for dance and film as well as electroacoustic music and ethnomusicological recordings. Music traditions from Asia, especially Indonesian and parts of China, have had a profound influence on his works. His music has been played widely and by such performers as Lontano, Kronos Quartet, the New Zealand String Quartet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He has been involved in a wide variety of projects around New Zealand, and he has received a range of awards including the OMNZ in 2001.

People Look East was originally written in 1963 and has been performed by a range of choirs around New Zealand ever since. The words, whose meter inspires the lively rhythms of Body’s setting, come from a poem written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1928.

English Carols

The Blessed Son of God
Ralph Vaughan Williams, OM (1872 –1958)

After attending Charterhouse School, Vaughan Williams attended the Royal College of Music (RCM) under Charles Villiers Stanford. He read history and music at Trinity College, Cambridge before returning to the RCM, studying composition with Hubert Parry. He did not begin publishing until he was 30, but is now regarded as a highly influential English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. Vaughan Williams uncovered and transcribed many English folk songs, some of which he later incorporated into his own music. The arrangement of The Blessed Son of God is based on the fifth piece from his Christmas cantata, “Hodie”.

The Three Kings
Peter Cornelius (1824-1874)
arr. Ivor Atkins (1869-1953)

Peter Cornelius was a native of Mainz, Germany and a member of the Weimar circle of the mid-nineteenth century. He was both a poet and a composer, and influenced musically by Liszt and later Wagner.

Cornelius set his first poem “Die Könige” in a simple ballad-like style. A choral setting was sketched in 1859 and published in a set of six Weihnachtslieder (carols) in 1871. The most popular arrangement, which we shall hear today, is for soloist and eight-part choir by Ivor Atkins (1869-1953) who was organist of Worcester Cathedral from 1897-1950. In this setting, the accompaniment is provided by a choir singing the first verse of the chorale under a soloist singing the Three Kings.

Soloist: Tim Hurd

The Holly and the Ivy
Reginald Jacques (1894-1969)

Reginald Jacques was a British orchestra conductor and musical educator. From 1931 to 1960, he conducted the Bach Choir in London, including its annual performance of the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. In 1936, he formed the Jacques String Orchestra and arranged many works for it.

The Holly and the Ivy is a traditional Christmas carol, which is among the most lightly Christianized carols of the Yuletide: holly and ivy being among the most familiar druidic plants. The music and most of the modern text was collected by Cecil Sharp from a woman in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire. This carol is probably related to an older carol: “The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly”, a struggle between the traditional emblems of woman and man respectively.

Director: Daniel Kelly

Born in 1969, Daniel Kelly grew up in Palmerston North where he completed his M.Sc. As a secondary school teacher, Daniel has conducted a variety of school choirs, acted as vocal director for several musicals, and led a number of adult singing groups since the early 1990’s. In 1997, he joined the Southern Consort of Voices (SCV) under Jack Spiers, taking singing lessons from Maureen Smith. Upon moving to Boston in 1999, he was accepted into a specialist early music choir, Musicum Convivium, formed under the umbrella of the Longy School of Music (Harvard) and directed by Scott Metcalfe.

Returning to Dunedin in 2001, Daniel rejoined the SCV and began his tenure as director with the SCV for the 2006 Christmas concert, having been assistant conductor to the Anthony Ritchie for the midyear concert. In 2007, Daniel was one of three who participated in a mentoring programme designed for conductors established by Southern Sinfonia, in collaboration with the Southern Youth Choir. The programme involved working with the international conductors Luke Dollman, Tecwyn Evans and Werner Andreas Albert.

The Southern Consort of Voices

Sopranos: Kirsten Bevin, Brenda Burton, Susanne Gebhard, Zoe Hawke,
Jean Simpson, Abby Smith, Cherie Stayner, Kathryn Whitwell

Altos: Clare Adams, Catherine Cameron, Sophie Fern, Jo Fielding, Alison Tait, Eleanor Whitwell, Sarah Wilson

Tenors: Douglas Black, Tim Hurd, John Hale, Cameron Kerr, Andrew Moore

Basses: Peter Catterall, Roger Noonan, Marlyn Jakub, Jim Ross, Peter Tozer

Today’s concert ends a busy and successful year for the Southern Consort of Voices. 2007’s programme included three regular concerts, an extra performance courtesy of the Opoho Presbyterian Church’s Springtime series, setting the scene on opening night at the Fortune Theatre for “Mum’s Choir” and performing as the semi-chorus for the City of Dunedin Choir in Elgar’s “The Dream of Gerontius.”