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Andrews University Symphony Orchestra
A Christmas Celebration
December 6, 2008
Vivaldi: Concerto in C Major for Two Trumpets, RV 537 | Chadwick: Noel (from Symphonic Sketches)Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, op. 71 | Adam: O Holy Night | Veray: Villancico Yaucano
Berlin: White Christmas | Bennett: Many Moods of Christmas, Suite No. 1
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in C Major for Two Trumpets, RV 537
Tonight’s concert of music celebrating the season begins with the sound of the instrument most often associated with celebratory music, the trumpet—in fact, two of them. Antonio Vivaldi was known variously as the red priest, the teacher of orphan girls in the Venetian Pio Ospedale della Pietà, a renowned violin virtuoso, and an innovator in the composition of concertos featuring various solo instruments. Although half of Vivaldi’s over 700 instrumental works featured solo violin, he did provide concertos and sonatas for other instruments, including some 50 for pairs of instruments of various types. His innovations in the concerto genre include: regular use of ritornello form (tutti theme alternating with solo episodes) in the fast outer movements, pioneering virtuosic standards for soloists, new strong effects, such as orchestral unison. Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for 2 Trumpets and Strings joins other Baroque festive music by Bach, Handel, and others featuring paired trumpets. The limitations of the valveless trumpets of the time challenged the composers to work around the technical problems posed by the instrument’s having a limited number of playable notes, but the end result gives us fanfare-like effects, enhancing the celebratory mood. As with other Baroque trumpet works, the central adagio is scored without trumpets.
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George Chadwick (1854-1931)
Noel (from Symphonic Sketches)
George Whitefield Chadwick might seem an unlikely candidate to become a dominant force in the development of 19th century American music, but it is against such odds that American dreams are made. Young George lost his musical mother in the first week of his life, and with the exception of music lessons from his elder brother, he received no encouragement for musical development from his remaining family. Dropping out of high school, George joined his father’s insurance firm, studying music in Boston on the side. After receiving his music degree from the New England Conservatory, he was hired for a one-year position at Olivet College in Michigan, which gave him the funds needed to study in the great conservatories in Germany where he won critical acclaim as a composer. Returning to Boston he was appointed to teach at the New England Conservatory, in due time becoming its head and making his name transforming the school from its former role as a piano teacher training school to a full fledged conservatory on the European model. Although Chadwick wrote in many genres, during his lifetime he was known primarily for his orchestral compositions, many of them premiered by the newly formed Boston Symphony Orchestra. After composing three symphonies in the traditional germanic mold, he turned to his own version of multi-movement orchestral works which are typically lighter in character and have programmatic elements. Noel is the second (a slow movement) of the four movement work Symphonic Sketches, four contrasting scenes from contemporary American Life. The others are: Julbilee, Hobgoblin, and A Vagrom Ballad. The movement was named for his beloved second son, Noel. The accompanying poem and the music evoke a picture, a kind of Currier and Ives print, of domestic bliss set in a country snow clad scene. The English Horn sings the lullaby—Ida May Chadwick to Noel—reminiscent of the Virgin and Child in Palestine long ago.
Through the soft, calm moonlight comes a sound;
A mother lulls her babe, and all around
The gentle snow lies glistening
On such a night the Virgin Mother mild
In dreamless slumber wrapped the Holy Child
While angel hosts were listening.
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Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (1859-1935)
Nutcracker Suite, op. 71
Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy
Dance of the Reed Pipes
Waltz of the Flowers
A staple of musical holiday fare is Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. If people have not seen or heard of another ballet, they certainly recognize tunes that portray the sugar plum fairy or the waltzing flowers. The first performance of the Nutcracker Suite was performed in St. Petersburg March 7, 1892, as a sneak preview for the complete ballet, and was a great success with the public. It was the ballet itself, an adaptation from E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouseking, that had trouble gaining a foothold in the ballet repertory–in fact it was a 75-year journey to acceptance. Without the composer’s marvelous music, the ballet surely would not have survived. Today the story of the young Clara, her love for her “ugly” nutcracker, the growing Christmas tree, the battle between the toys and mice, Clara’s role in the release of the enchanted prince from his spell, and the journey through the snow to the kingdom of sweets where the sugar plum fairy reigns as queen, has become famous through live ballet performances, TV, film, cartoons, books, websites, and toys.
While the Suite does not include much of the music that carries the plot of the story, it does present a sampling of the wonderful melodies and distinctive tone colors that characterize all the music of the ballet. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the care that Tchaikovsky took with color was his desire to use a new instrument, the celesta, to depict the lightness and grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Patented in Paris in 1886, the celesta (an instrument made of metal bars played from a keyboard) was not well known at the time. Tchaikovsky ordered an instrument for this piece, but asked that its purchase be kept a secret as he didn’t want another composer–particularly Rimsky-Korsakov–to “steal” his idea. The maneuver worked, the instrument has since become a regular orchestral keyboard instrument, but continues to be best known in its original role as the voice of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Suite begins as does the ballet, with an Overture, orchestrated with light strings and winds, which invites us to enter the magical world of the fairy tale. Immediately following is the March which introduces the Christmas party scene. The remaining pieces are all second act characteristic dances, which take place in the Kingdom of Sweets, illustrated by appropriate orchestral colors. 1) Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; 2) Russian Dance (Trepak); 3) Arabian Dance (Coffee); 4) Chinese Dance (Tea); 5) Dance of the Mirlitons (reedpipes—kazoo-like instruments, but actually played by flute trio); 6) Waltz of the Flowers brings the suite to a grand conclusion with woodwind and harp introduction, then the horns lead the way to the dance.
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Adolphe Adam (1803-1856)
O Holy Night
It was in 1847 that a town priest in Southern France asked Placide Cappeau, the local mayor, wine merchant, and amateur poet to contribute a new poem for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. While on a business trip to Paris, Cappeau wrote Cantique de Noël, inspired by the Gospel story and following the French country tradition of imagining himself at the birth of Christ. Upon arrival in Paris, Cappeau sought to have the poem set to music by the eminent composer for the stage, Adolphe Adam (best known for his ballet Giselle). Adam quickly provided the music, the piece was happily accepted by the priest for the Christmas Eve service, and its popularity grew all over France. In time, the song fell out of favor with the French clergy (not because of the text or music, but because of Cappeau’s socialist views and Adam’s Jewish ancestry) but it never lost its appeal. An American Abolitionist minister, John Sullivan Dwight, published an English translation of the text, O Holy Night that has remained the most popular English version of this beloved Christmas anthem. Dwight was particularly drawn to the third stanza of the text (not heard tonight) that describes Christ’s ministry and teachings, which expressed the minister’s own views on slavery and the civil war that was raging at the time:
Truly he taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
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Amaury Veray (1922-1995)
A villancico is a Spanish musical/poetic form dating from the 15th century. It was primarily associated with rustic themes and, increasingly over the centuries, with devotional themes in the context of religious festivals. Since the 19th century, particularly in Latin America, the term villancico has become synonymous with Christmas carol. Amaury Veray was one of the most prominent Puerto Rican composers of the 20th century writing in many genres, mainly film, ballet and song. He gained his music education not only in Puerto Rico, but also at the New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music and the Academia di S. Cecilia in Rome. Following his studies Veray returned to Puerto Rico teaching theory and composition at the Conservatory of Music until his death. He contributed to a nationalistic movement in Puerto Rican music, wrote on it extensively and developed an archive of music at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. The devotional Villancico Yaucano (originally a song with piano: orchestrated by Mandy Vizoso) is presented in the voice of Juan, a vegetable vendor from Amaury’s hometown of Yauco.
I would like to kiss you, Child
But Saint Joseph will not let me.
He says that I will make you cry
Even so, will you let me?
He was born in a manger
Full of spider webs
Between the mule and the ox,
The Redemer of souls.
In Bethlehem they play by fire
The flames come from the stable.
He is the star from heaven
Which has fallen on the straw?
I am a poor Yaucano
Who comes here from Yauco.
And to my God, the child, I bring
A cock-a-doodle-doo rooster.
Now you know, beautiful Child,
I am from the town of coffee.
And if you want a sack of coffee
I will bring it to you.
I am Juan, the vegetable vendor
Who comes from the mountain.
I bring you fine root vegetables
From my humble hut.
To the newborn baby
Everybody brings a gift.
Since I have nothing
I offer him my heart.
(trans. J.C. Rodriguez)
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Irving Berlin (1888-1989)
Arguably one of the most popular Christmas songs (second only to Silent Night), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas first appeared in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, a Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film musical review created to celebrate a year of holidays. Each scene was centered around a Berlin song celebrating the cycle of seasons and accompanying holidays. As a showcase for his songs, Berlin imagined an entertainer (Crosby) who had left show business to refurbish an old country inn in New England open only for holidays. As it happened, Berlin had recently bought a country house in the Catskills. The song that became the centerpiece of this film (as well as the 1954 film White Christmas) had actually been written at Christmas, 1937, while Berlin was stuck in Hollywood, far from family and home in upstate New York. When the film came out in 1942, the song was quickly embraced by American GIs who were separated or facing separation from home and family at Christmas and Americans facing an uncertain future in wartime. Berlin later stated: White Christmas “came out at a time when we were at war and it became a peace song in wartime, nothing I’d ever intended.”
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Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981)
Many Moods of Christmas, Suite No. 1
Originally associated with music of movement, dance or processionals, carols have been an important part of Christmas celebrations since medieval times. Whether narrative, contemplative, or celebratory in style, it has been those carols that exhibit a simple spirit that have endured as favorites. During the past one hundred fifty years, new research and published carol collections have emerged giving attention to a broader knowledge of carol traditions across the centuries and from many lands. Following World War II the young American choral conductor, Robert Shaw and his colleague Alice Parker arranged a number of carols from various cultures and with the newly formed Robert Shaw Chorale recorded them on 78 rpm discs under the title Christmas Hymns and Carols. This instantly popular collection traveled to the new technology of long playing records in 1948, and, encouraged by the success of the venture, Shaw and Parker arranged another group that was then recorded in stereo when that technology became available in 1958. The recording industry has, of course made available an abundance of holiday listening over time. In 1962 the distinguished American composer/conductor/arranger Robert Russell Bennett arranged traditional and contemporary carols for a recording to be done by contralto Marian Anderson. This led to a commission by RCA records for Bennett to arrange carols for large chorus and orchestra. The resulting set, The Many Moods of Christmas, was released in 1962.
Suite No. 1 of The Many Moods of Christmas truly presents many moods, and represents several cultures and epochs. Following an orchestral introduction displaying a hint of the American carol Jingle Bells, the choir joins the orchestra for Good Christian Men Rejoice, a carol with roots in the German medieval dance carol In Dulci Jubilo. Perhaps the most beloved of all carols Silent Night follows. Many fanciful stories about mice and organ bellows have grown up around the circumstances of its composition, but what has been established is that the carol was composed by an Austrian village organist and priest for a Christmas Eve musical emergency. The popular carol has truly traveled the world and has been translated into innumerable languages. Patapan comes from 18th century Burgundy and follows the French folk carol (or Noël) tradition of calling all the villagers together with their instruments (the drum "pat-a-pat-a-pan,” the fife, “tu-re-lu-re-lu”) to worship the new born Christ child. One of the most universally popular Christmas hymns, Adeste Fidelis, originated in the exiled English Catholic community in 18th century France. This Christmas eve, that carol will be sung in procession in countless churches around the globe calling on the faithful, angels, shepherds, and magi to greet and adore the new born King.
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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2008.
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