Here are some highlights and history from our upcoming ‘Tis the Season Christmas program!
Ave Maria was composed in about 1825 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) when he was twenty-eight years old and filled with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was written for voice and piano and first published in 1826 as Op 52 no 6. The words and lyrics most commonly used with Schubert’s Ave Maria music are not the words that the composer originally set to music. Schubert actually wrote the music for an excerpt from the poem “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott, which was translated into German by Adam Storck. Schubert called his piece Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen’s third song).
O Holy Night, Adolphe Adam
In Roguemaure, France, at the end of 1843, the church organ had recently been renovated. To celebrate the event, the parish priest asked wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, a native of the town, to write a Christmas poem, even though the latter had never showed any interest in religion, and Cappeau obliged. Soon afterwards that same year, Adolphe Adam composed the music. The song was premiered in Roquemaure in 1847 by the opera singer Emily Laurey. Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music, translated the song into English lyrics in 1855.
Gesù Bambino is an Italian Christmas carol composed by Pietro Yon in 1917. The melody was used by Frederick H. Martens in his English language carol “When Blossoms Flowered ‘mid the Snows”. The melody and lyrics of the chorus are derived from “Adeste Fideles” (O Come All Ye Faithful). The music historian Salvatore Basile notes: “The song would achieve the near-impossible feat of surviving in the standard holiday repertoire, with important performances, innumerable recordings, and every kind of vocal and instrumental arrangement.”
Joy to the World
The words of the hymn are by English writer Isaac Watts based on Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18. The song was first published in 1719 in Watts’ collection The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Isaac Watts was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian and logician. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the “Godfather of English Hymnody; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.
“Candlelight Carol” is a carol with music and lyrics by the English choral composer and conductor John Rutter. The carol was written in 1984, and was first recorded by Rutter’s own group, the Cambridge Singers, on their 1987 album Christmas Night.
The carol has since been recorded by many artists, including Neil Diamond (on his 1994 album The Christmas Album, Volume 2), Joseph McManners (on his 2005 album In Dreams), Aled Jones (including a version in Welsh), and several important choirs including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It has also become a fairly popular carol for choirs at Christmas concerts in the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. “Candlelight Carol” describes the Nativity of Jesus, focusing on the love of Mary for her son. This carol was commissioned by John Romeri, then Director of Music at the Church of the Assumption in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.
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