by Richard H. Trame, S.J., Ph.D.
The 1992 Christmas concert fittingly commences with a robust processional based on the German tune of 1360, Personet hodie. Famed University of North Carolina composer and arranger Lara Hoggard created this stirring arrangement for organ, brass, percussion and chorus for the carol found in the Piae cantiones collection, compiled in 1582 by the Finn Theodore Petrus, and long used by the Lutheran churches of Sweden and Finland.
The contemporary German composer Franz Biehl's Ave Maria may at first seem but another setting of the Angelic Salutation. However, its subtitle Angelus indicates that the Ave Maria segment is repeated after the versicles and responses of this ancient daily commemoration of Gabriel's annunciation of the Savior, Mary's acceptance of the Incarnate Word, and its fulfillment.
The increasingly prominent Minneapolis based composer Stephen Paulus, perhaps best known for his opera The Postman Always Rings Twice, has composed an attractive modern carol A Savior From On High, its words by the 17th century poet William Ballet. What Sweeter Music, also known as Herrick's carol, derives its melody from a Christmas play found in the Cologne Songbook of 1623. The poem set was taken from Robert Herrick's collection Hesperides and sung in 1647 at the palace of Whitehall before the ill-fated King Charles I.
Maestro Salamunovich has chosen a work by the now prominent and well-known Mack Wilberg. Tres cantus laudendi gives expression to Christmas joy through excerpts from three traditional psalms of rejoicing. Psalm 100 Jubilate Deo and Psalm 113 Laudate pueri were commissioned and performed by the Utah Symphony and Chorus in 1989. Psalm 150 Laudate Dominum premiered in 1990 at Brigham Young University. These psalms are scored for three each of trumpets, horns, trombones, a tuba, percussion, organ and chorus, and are sung without break.
The well-beloved Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel originated as a French processional hymn of the 15th century. The familiar Latin version Veni veni, Emmanuel appeared in the Little Cologne Psalter of 1710. J.M. Neale supplied the English translation for Thomas Helmore's adaptation of the tune in 1854. The 19th century American hymn composer Lowell Mason (1792- 1872) adapted and arranged a melody from the works of George Frederic Handel (1685-1759). He utilized a poem by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) for Joy to the World!. Mason's carol has seen many adroit, jubilant and challenging arrangements. It serves as a fitting close to the first half of the choral program.
John Rutter, one of modem England's premier living composers, provides the arrangements for the next four carols, sung without break.
Adolphe-Charles Adam (1 803-1856), a successful French composer of opera, is probably best known for his enduringly popular ballet Giselle as well as his Cantique de NoŽl (O Holy Night), set to words by Coppeau De Roquemaure. Rutter's brilliant arrangement gives full scope to the famed aria's florid 19th century romanticism. Away in a Manger boasts two familiar carol tunes, both of American origin. The tune sung for this program was composed by James R. Murray (1841-1905). Both versions set a text by John Thomas McFarland (1851- 1913). The Holly and the Ivy may be designated as either a Nativity, Lenten or Autumnal carol. Rutter also brilliantly arranged the Gloucestershire Carol, dedicating it to the choir of Clare College, Cambridge. Go Tell it on the Mountain's tune exists in several variant versions. The respected Black composer and arranger John W. Work, Jr. (1871-1925) derived the melody from folk materials, composing and setting the familiar stanzas. Rutter's variation was selected from personal preference.
O Come Little Children, an original German Christmas song, was composed by Johann Abraham Peter Schultz (1747-1800), a composer of operas, operettas and religious works. Johann von Schmidt provided this ingratiating children's melody with its text. The present arrangement was made by James Fritschel, noted American arranger/composer, recently emeritus at California Lutheran University. Composer J.D. Miller in What Shall We Give utilizes a traditional Catalonian folk-melody. In the text those approaching the manger will bring raisins, olives, nuts and sweets for the Infant. A traditional French carol, What is This Fragrance finds its lovely sentiments translated by Werner Grams in William Averitt's arrangement. Designated as a traditional Bohemian carol, The Angels and the Shepherds in Stephen Paulus' arrangement for chorus, handbells or piano, and flute is furnished with an English poem of Helen Dickenson.
With its melody also known as "Sunny Bank," Englishmen sang the words to I Saw Three Ships all over their country prior to its publication in 1833. The three ships symbolize the journey and arrival of Joseph, Mary and the Child in Bethlehem, fitting nautical terminology for the island nation of England.
The melody of the ever popular Hark! The Herald Angels Sing comes from Mendelssohn's Festgesang written in 1840 for male chorus and orchestra in celebration of the Gutenberg Festival commemorating the four-hundredth anniversary of the invention of moveable type. Mendelssohn's melody was in 1886 adapted and set to words of Samuel Wesley (1739) by W.H. Cummings. Robert D. Hunter's arrangement serves as an exhilarating climax for a festive Christmas concert.