Program Notes

A Feast of Carols

A Feast of Carols

Randol Alan Bass is a Texan by birth and present attachment, although he earned an M.M. from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory, and completed part of his doctorate at Ohio State. He has founded and conducted several wind and choral groups at various times in his career, and his compositions and arrangements have been performed by well-respected groups in such venues as Tanglewood, Carnegie Hall, and the symphony centers of Boston and Dallas.

A Feast of Carols, published in 1985, is an arrangement of six well-known Christmastide songs, beginning with the Gloucestershire Wassail—one of several English lays celebrating the drink of that name and the seasonal custom of going house-to-house seeking conviviality. This is followed by the French carol, Il Est Ne (He Is Born). Interestingly, this carol—which also appears in the Honegger work on tonight’s program—begins in French, then repeats in English; the translation here stays quite close to the French wording, whereas the English lyrics to the various carols embedded in the Honegger work are at best free adaptations of the originals. The third course of the Feast is Veni Emmanuel : The melody may have originated as plainsong, but has been traced to a fifteenth-century Franciscan processional for the dead. The Latin text probably originated as a sixth- or seventh-century antiphon, and here the music again returns to English via twentieth-century translations. The Feast then proceeds into The Holly and the Ivy— this text was used as early as 1710, and its symbolism may embed pagan beliefs, where the holly and ivy represented, respectively, masculine and feminine elements. The melody was collected in Gloucestershire in the late nineteenth century. The Feast concludes with two other English songs– the now-politically-incorrect God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (the pre-1848 tune is from London, and the text was written before 1770), and, as a conclusion, the Chorus’ wish for all of our audience, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The Chorus previously performed one of Mr. Bass’ arrangements, Christmas Ornaments, in 1992.

J. R. Fancher