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St. Joseph Pro Musica
December 19, 1992

Sweelinck and Gabrieli: Hodie Christus Natus Est | Rutter: Christmas Carols | Finzi: Magnificat | Britten: Ceremony of Carols

Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612)
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
Hodie Christus Natus Est

Hodie Christus Natus Est comes from the liturgy of the vesper service for Christmas day.  Two jubilant settings from the high renaissance open and close the program.  A plainsong setting is used by Britten as the procession and recession for the Ceremony of Carols.  The text is a paraphrase of Luke 2:11, 13-14 and Psalm 33:1 and follows as the antiphon to the textual climax of the Vesper office, the exultant Canticle of the Virgin Mary, Magnificat anima mea ("My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior"), a paraphrase of Luke 1:46-55. A setting of the Magnificat is also heard on this program.

Latin and English texts of the Hodie

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John Rutter(1945-)
Selected Christmas Carols

What Sweeter Music
Shepherd's Pipe Carol
Nativity Carol
Twelve Days of Christmas
Angels' Carol
English composer John Rutter is well-known for his church music, and especially his settings of carols--both arrangements of traditional tunes as well as his own original compositions.  Tonight we hear five of them spanning 25 years of his career as a composer from his student composition, the Nativity Carol of 1963, to the Angel's Carol and What Sweeter Music, both published in 1988.

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Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)

Gerald Finzi, a British composer noted particularly for his vocal and choral writing, worked in the English tradition of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Parry, and Holst.  He was a musical poet par excellence, with his special talent and most characteristic music being found in his songs.  His music, written in a style considered by critics to be at least forty years old, left him open to the contempt and indifference of many who expected something "avant garde."  Finzi lived most of his life in the country, and was a collector of rare books and grower of rare apples.

Finzi's grand setting of the Magnificat, Mary's song of praise, is not intended for liturgical use, but was composed for Iva Hiatt and Robert Beckwith and the choirs of Smith and Amherst Colleges, Massachusetts, for Christmas, 1952.

English text of the Magnificat

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Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28

Wolcum Yole!
There is no Rose
That Yongë Child
As dew in Aprille
This little babe
In Freezing Winter Night
Spring Carol
Deo Gracias (Adam lay i-bounden)

Benjamin Britten's serene Ceremony of Carols for three treble parts, two soloists, and harp, was born during an uncertain voyage on board a Swedish cargo ship traveling through the submarine infested Atlantic as he returned to England from America during World War II. One of Britten's most popular works, the ceremony welds an exquisite selection of ancient carol texts, creating a cyclical unit. The medieval feeling is heightened by the plainsong processional and recessional as well as the use of the harp as the only accompanying instrument. The ten carols are divided in two sections by the harp interlude whose melodic material harks back to the procession and the first chorus.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 1992.
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