And the glory of the Lord - G. F. Handel (1685-1759)
Handel's "And the Glory of the Lord", from the Christmas portion of his Baroque masterpiece, Messiah, is bold and brassy: a celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of redemption. Born German, the bigger-than-life Georg Friedrich Handel, like his countryman Georg, Prince Elector of Hanover (crowned George I of Great Britain in 1714), immigrated to England, where he became a naturalized citizen and lived out his life.
there is no rose - John Joubert (b. 1927)
John Joubert's "There is no rose of such virtue" is a luminous motet whose text is reminiscent of the metaphysical poetry of the 17th century. Despite his French name, Joubert is British (though of Huguenot descent), born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Over a long lifetime, he has composed prolifically – but not exclusively – organ and choral music for the Church.
Adam lay in bondage - Conrad Sousa (b. 1935)
Conrad Susa is an American composer and conductor of wide renown. His compositions in several genres have been performed throughout the United States and abroad. "Adam lay in bondage" is a catchy rendition of the anonymous 14th-century carol – not as familiar perhaps as Boris Ord's setting, but delightful in its cheerful, quirky syncopation.
All this time - William Walton (1902-1983)
The sprightly and popular "All this time" is a 16th-century carol of unknown origin, delightfully arranged by British composer William Walton. A musical prodigy, Walton may be best known for his opus, "Crown Imperial",composed for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
My beloved spake - Patrick Hadley (1899-1973)
Hadley is probably best remembered for his tender Christmas motet, “I Sing of a Maiden,” and for the anthem, “My Beloved Spake,” whose text is taken from the Book of Solomon. The “Song of Songs” is perhaps the most sensuous, even quasi-erotic, book of the Old Testament. The allegorical depiction of a young woman and a young man coming toward one another from afar to wed and consummate their love is tantalizing. Hadley superbly grafts onto these onomatopoeic words the lush, sinuous texture of his musical phrasing.
Psalm 103 - John Camidge II (1790-1895)
This Anglican chant psalm, “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Benedic, anima mea), was set by John Camidge II who served for several years as organist at York Minster before a paralytic stroke in 1848 disabled him permanently.
Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, and
At the round earth's imagined corners - Lee Hoiby (b1926)
Wisconsin native Lee Hoiby (b. 1926) studied with Gian Carlo Menotti (composer of operas, including Amahl and the Night Visitors) at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It was under Menotti’s tutelage that Hoiby began his own career as an opera composer. Over the years he wrote several, including The Scarf, A Month in the Country, and Something New for the Zoo. He also has written numerous song-cycles for solo voice, as well as an impressive collection of church music.
During the mid-20th century, when compositions of experimental, avant-garde, highly intellectual music were de rigueur, Hoiby refused to be bound by such orthodoxy. His style, as can be perceived in his glorious Service (the sparkling Magnificat; the lambent Nunc dimittis) and in his soaring arrangement of “At the round earth’s imagined corners,” while not classical or romantic, is still beautifully tonal and emotionally satisfying. As has been written of him, “[Hoiby’s] style is an elegant and unobvious bridging of the lyrical worlds of Verdi and Gershwin, which . . .skirts the modernist obsession with ‘originality.’”
O Praise the Lord - Adrian Batten (1591-1637)
Batten was an English chorister, organist and composer, following in the footsteps of Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Robert Parsons, initiators of the music of the new Church of England. Batten, while not as well known as some of his predecessors and contemporaries, was one of the most prolific composers of Anglican service music and church anthems. His charming motet “O Praise the Lord” is an example of the emerging style of the English Church: simple, as prescribed by that most Anglican of archbishops, Thomas Cranmer, yet employing a rich polyphony suggestive of Tallis’ or Byrd’s more lavish compositions written for the Roman Church.
Magnificat & Nunc dimittis in D - Herbert Brewer (1865-1928)
A. Herbert Brewer (1865-1928) enjoyed a distinguished career as a composer, as well as organist and master of choristers at Gloucester Cathedral, until his sudden death in 1928. Like his contemporaries Edward Elgar, C.V. Stanford, and other musical titans of the late 19th and early 20th century in Britain, Brewer ushered in the renaissance of an English musical tradition that, lamentably, had lapsed since the time of Henry Purcell.
In his Service in D, the character of the Magnificat is vigorous and triumphant while the ambience of Nunc dimittis – as befits the text – is introspective and tranquil, until the recapitulated Gloria, which broadens and swells to a resplendent climax.
A Child My choice - Stephen Paulus (b1949)
“A Child My Choice” is a four-part chorale motet from the Christmas cantata, “So Hallow’d Is the Time,” written by American composer Stephen Paulus. It is based on a luminous poem of the same name by the Elizabethan poet and Catholic martyr Robert Southwell (1561-1595). A talented and prolific composer, Paulus has been hailed as “a bright, fluent inventor with a ready lyric gift.” As for Robert Southwell, unlike his Catholic contemporaries Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, he did not escape the persecutions of Protestant officialdom in the years following the infamous Babington Plot. Yet even as he faced the most brutal execution imaginable at Tyburn in February of 1595, he steadfastly embraced his faith to the end.
Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming - Hugo Distler (1908-1942)
A native of Nuremberg, Germany, Hugo Distler composed The Christmas Story chorale motet taking for his motif the beloved sixteenth-century tune “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (“Lo, how a rose e’er blooming”). The Anglican Singers are singing the first two verses of this charming work, which, in its entirety, consists of storytelling verses sung by single and double choir, interspersed with a setting of the Magnificat. Thus in Distler’s hands, a simple carol becomes a kind of medieval mystery play. Sadly, the composer died young by his own hand. Fearing conscription into the Nazi Wehrmacht (military), he chose death over forced service to a regime he despised.
The Truth From Above - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Like his American contemporary Alan Lomax, the ethnomusicologist who during the 1930s recorded and revived the folk music of Appalachia, British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was possibly the premier collector and interpreter of English folk tunes. Throughout his career as a master of many musical genres, Williams maintained a lifelong commitment to exploring the indigenous music of his land. One of the most popular traditional carols which he arranged is “The truth from above.”