Program Notes

2006 Fall – Many Moods of Christmas – Suite 1

The Many Moods of Christmas, Suite 1 by Robert Shaw and Richard Russell Bennett

Beginning in the 1960’s, the late Robert Shaw and the noted arranger Robert Russell Bennett collaborated on a series of Christmas medleys, all of them pastiches of carols and seasonal tunes. This is the first in that series, and is new to the Chorus’ repertoire (the Chorus previously sang others in that series on concerts in 1986, 1994, and 2001). This work incorporates four carols, described below:

In Dulci Jubilo (Good Christian Men, Rejoice) This melody dates before 1305- one account has it sung by angels to the German mystic Heinrich Suso !–, and has accumulated various textual versions in many languages. Shaw and Bennett begin with a modern hymn version, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”, which is a mid-nineteenth-century paraphrase by the English writer, John M. Neale. The melody has been arranged by many composers, including Bartholomew Gesius (1601), and J. S. Bach. The second verse here, which alternates Latin with English, follows a pattern established by the first English translator, John Wedderburn, about 1540.

Silent Night Almost everyone who has ever sung this beloved carol also knows of its genesis, at Christmas in 1818 at Oberndorf, in the Austrian Tyrol: Assistant priest Josef Mohr and acting organist Franz Gruber put it together for a Christmas Eve service, substituting guitar for the organ-which was aus gespiel-and doing a duet. Mohr sang tenor lead and Gruber sang bass, while playing the guitar. The organ repairman, Karl Mauracher of Zillerthal, secured a copy and spread it around the Tyrol, calling it a volkslied; while it has a folksong character, it was not, of course, anonymous, and it was finally published in 1838 in Leipzig (although by that time it was being performed frequently by others). The version familiar to most Americans-and utilized here by Shaw and Bennett-is slightly different from the original version; the latter repeats the last line, and there are slight differences in the melody as well.

Pat-a-pan (Carol of the Fife and Drum) Perhaps surprisingly, this carol is of French (Burgundian) origin and may predate the eighteenth century; it appears in a 1701 collection by Gul Barozai, but has been ascribed to a contemporaneous collector, Bernard de la Monnoye, who is thought to have used local melodies. He may or may not have written words and/or embellished the music. “Pat-a-pan”, of course, is onomatopoeic for the drum, and “tu-re-lu-re-lu” represents the flute, or pipe. It has been pointed out that “Guillo” (Willie) and “Robin” are “stock characters” in French carols and are perhaps used to suggest an event in which the whole community is involved. The drum of that period is an elongated cylinder with a snare on the upper head, usually played with a single drumstick; the “fife” or pipe was a three-holed instrument, quite shrill. Such instruments were often used for folk dancing, and the rhythmic nature of this carol certainly suggests a dance.

Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful) This hymn, dating from about 1743, is now thought to be the work of John Francis Wade, an Englishman long employed at the Catholic center in Douay, France. Wade was primarily a copyist, but apparently composed both words (four Latin verses) and music for this hymn, although the meter of the original was different from the rather martial version used today. The English translation dates from 1841 but there are numerous variations in wording among hymnals.

J. R. Fancher, Oct. 2006