XXXth Annual
Music for the Christmas Season
Program Notes
 
Organ Prelude
 
Once in Royal David's City* XIVth century English C. F. H. Alexander/David Willcocks
 
Reading
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing* XVIIIth century English Charles Wesley
Coventry Carol XVIth century English David Willcocks
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen XVth century French David Willcocks
Far Away on Judea's Plains* XIXth century American J. M. Macfarlane
 
Reading
The Angels and the Shepherds Traditional Bohemian C. H. Trevor
Still, Still, Still XIXth century Austrian Norman Luboff
 
Reading
Organ Interlude—It Came upon a Midnight Clear Douglas Bush
Masters in This Hall XIXth century French David Willcocks
Away in a Manger* XIXth century American W. J. Kirkpatrick
 
Reading
In dulci jubilo XIVth century German R. L. Pearsall
Birthday Carol XXth century English David Willcocks
Joy to the World* XVIIIth century English Isaac Watts
 
Reading
Angels from the Realms of Glory Traditional French Reginald Jacques
O Jesu, Sweet Child XVIIth century German Samuel Scheidt, Johann Sebastian Bach
Oh Come All Ye Faithful* XVIIIth century English J. F. Wade
 
Reading
Nowell XXth century American Randall Thompson, Douglas Bush
A Star Shall Rise XIXth century German Felix Mendelssohn
 
Reading
Silent Night* XIXth century Austrian Franz Gruber
 
Organ Postlude

* Carols marked with an asterisk are joined by the congregation.




Once in Royal David's City

Cecil Frances Humpherys Alexander (1818-1895) captured the essence of important events in the Saviour's birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection for teaching these to children in her many poems and hymns including, here, Once in Royal David's City, but also All Things Bright and Beautiful, There Is a Green Hill Far Away and He Is Risen. Tonight's concert features the world-renown arrangement by Sir David Willcocks.

In the service on which our concert is loosely modeled, a young soprano is chosen by the choirmaster without prior arrangement and the boy sings the first verse solo. Then begins the procession of the choir into the King's College chapel.

    Once in royal David's city              For He is our childhood's pattern;
    Stood a lowly cattle shed,              Day by day, like us He grew;
    Where a mother laid her baby            He was little, weak and helpless,
    In a manger for His bed:                Tears and smiles like us He knew;
    Mary was that mother mild,              And He feeleth for our sadness,
    Jesus Christ her little child.          And He shareth in our gladness.

    He came down to earth from heaven,      And our eyes at last shall see Him,
    Who is God and Lord of all,             Through His own redeeming love;
    And His shelter was a stable,           For that Child so dear and gentle
    And His cradle was a stall;             Is our Lord in heaven above,
    With the poor, and mean, and lowly,     And He leads His children on
    Lived on earth our Savior Holy.         To the place where He is gone.

    And through all His wondrous childhood  Not in that poor lowly stable,
    He would honor and obey,                With the oxen standing by,
    Love and watch the lowly Maiden,        We shall see Him; but in heaven,
    In whose gentle arms He lay:            Set at God's right hand on high;
    Christian children all must be          When like stars His children crowned
    Mild, obedient, good as He.             All in white shall wait around.

Coventry Carol

In old England, mystery plays (about the mysteries of God and not murders) were done in towns much as we perform pageants today. In the era when Catholicism ill-tolerated vernacular Bible translations, these were one of the primary sources for the common people's knowledge of biblical stories.

Often, productions were underwritten by a local guild. Coventry Carol, just such a work commissioned by the shearmen and tailors, dates back at very least to 1591 and was performed, as its name implies, in the city of Coventry.

   Lully lulla, thow littell tyne child,
   By, by, lully lullay, thow littell tyne child,
   By, by, lully lullay!

   O sisters too, How may we do
   For to preserve this day
   This pore yongling, For whom we do singe
   By, by, lully, lullay?

   Herod, the king, In his raging,
   Chargid he hath this day
   His men of might In his owne sight
   All yonge children to slay

   That wo is me, Pore child, for thee,
   And ever morne and [may]
   For thy parting Neither say nor singe,
   By, by, lully, lullay.

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

This title has long confused modern English speakers who might better understand, "May God Keep You Alert, Good Sirs." This carol was centuries old and a most popular one by the time it was finally printed in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern by William Sandys in 1833.

   God rest you merry, gentlemen,      The shepherds at those tidings
   Let nothing you dismay,             Rejoicèd much in mind,
   For Jesus Christ our Saviour        And left their flocks a-feeding
   Was born upon this day,             In tempest, storm and wind,
   To save us all from Satan's power   And went to Bethlehem straightway,
   When we were gone astray:           This blessèd Babe to find:
                                    O tidings ...
      O tidings of comfort and joy,
      Comfort and joy,
      O tidings of comfort and joy.

   In Bethlehem, in Jewry,             But when to Bethlehem they came,
   This blessed Babe was born,         Whereat this Infant lay,
   And laid within a manger            They found Him in a manger,
   Upon this blessed morn,             Where oxen feed on hay;
   The which His Mother Mary           His mother Mary kneeling,
   Did nothing take in scorn:          Unto the Lord did pray:
   O tidings ...                       O tidings ...

   From God our heavenly Father        Now to the Lord sing praises,
   A blessèd angel came,               All you within this place,
   And unto certain shepherds          And with true love and brotherhood
   Brought tidings of the same,        Each other now embrace;
   How that in Bethlehem was born      This holy tide of Christmas
   The Son of God by name:             All others doth deface:
   O tidings ...                       O tidings ...

The Angels and the Shepherds

This is a traditional Bohemian carol with words adapted from Helene Dickinson in an arrangement by C. H. Trevor.

   Shepherds, O hark ye, glad tidings we bring,
   Peace and goodwill to the world now we sing.
   See in a manger Christ the Annointed
   Whom for your Saviour God hath appointed.
   Alleluia.

   In yonder manger behold now he lies
   Whom angel voices foretold from the skies.
   Seeking Thy mercy, we kneel before Thee.
   Singing Thy praises, humbly adore Thee.
   Alleluiah.

   Still through ages the song doth resound,
   Peace and goodwill on the earth shall abound.
   Bear we the tidings to every nation,
   Born is the Christ Child for man's salvation.
   Alleluia.

Still, Still, Still

In a cozy, pink-sweater arrangement by Norman Luboff, made popular in recent times by Chip Davis and the Cambridge Singers on one of his Fresh Aire Christmas albums, the choir sings a (very) loose interpretation of the favorite Austrian carol, Still, still, still weil's Kindlein schlafen will, written in Salzburg in 1819.

   Still, still, still,                   Still, still, still,
   One can hear the falling snow.         Weil's Kindlein schlafen will.
   For all is hushed,                     Die Englein tun schön jubilieren,
   The world is sleeping,                 Bei dem Kripplein...
   Holy Star its vigil keeping.                      ...musizieren.
   Still, still, still,                   Still, still, still,
   One can hear the falling snow.         Weil's Kindlein schlafen will.


   Sleep, sleep, sleep,                   Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
   'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.   Mein liebes Kindlein schlaf!
   The night is peaceful all around you,  Maria tut dich niedersingen
   Close your eyes,                       Und ihr treues...
   Let sleep surround you.                            ...Herz darbringen.
   Sleep, sleep, sleep,                   Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
   'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.   Mein liebes Kindlein schlaf!

   Dream, dream, dream,
   Of the joyous day to come.
   While guardian angels without number
   Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
   Dream, dream, dream,
   Of the joyous day to come.

Masters in This Hall, Hear Ye News Today!

The melody for this carol has been traced back to XVIIth century France and was published by Raoul Auger Feuillet. It was William Morris (1834-1896) who fashioned it into a carol around 1860 with elements of middle English. The line, "holpen all are folk on earth," means "rescued ('helped') are all the folk of earth."

   Masters in this Hall,                  "Shepherds should of right
   Hear ye news today                     Leap and dance and sing,
   Brought from over sea,                 Thus to see ye sit,
   And ever I you pray:                   Is a right strange thing."

      Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell, sing we clear!
      Holpen are all folk on earth, Born is God's son so dear:
      Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!  Nowell, sing we loud!
      God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

   Going o'er the hills,                  Quoth these fellows then,
   Through the milk-white snow,           "To Bethlem town we go,
   Heard I ewes bleat                     To see a mighty lord
   While the wind did blow:               Lie in manger low."

   Shepherds many an one                  "How name ye this lord,
   Sat among the sheep,                   Shepherds?" then said I,
   No man spake more word                 "Very God," they said,
   Than they had been asleep:             "Come from Heaven high."

   Quoth I, "Fellows mine,                This is Christ the Lord,
   Why this guise sit ye?                 Masters be ye glad!
   Making but dull cheer,                 Christmas is come in,
   Shepherds though ye be."               And no folk should be sad:

In dulci jubilo

The tune for this macaronic (mixed Latin and German) carol first appeared at least by the early XIVth century and was so loved that it survived the Reformation into to both Protestant and Catholic collections. Find a rather literal translation of the Latin text on the right.

   In dulci jubilo, let us our homage show;        In sweet joy...
   Our heart's Joy reclineth in præsepio,                   ...in the manger
   And like a bright star shineth
   Matris in gremio, Alpha es et O.                On Thy mother's lap, Thou art
                                                         the First and the Last
   O Jesu parvule, I yearn for Thee alway!         Tiny Jesus...
   Hear me, I beseech Thee, o Puer optime;                  ...Best of children
   My prayer let it reach Thee, o Princeps gloriæ;          ...Prince of glory
   Trahe me post te.                               Draw me along with Thee

   O Patris caritas! O Nati lenitas!               O Father's Love! O tenderness of birth!
   Deeply we were stained per nostra crimina;               ...by our sins
   But Thou for us hast gained cælorum gaudia:              ...celestial joy
   Oh, that we were there!

Birthday Carol

This is a modern carol written and set by the great English composer and choral conductor, Sir David Willcocks. Over the years, he has composed much notably for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge, the service after which tonight's concert is loosely patterned.

   Rejoice today with one accord, alleluia.
   This is the birthday of our Lord, alleluia.
   Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo.

   Shepherds abiding in the field,           And ye shall find in manger laid,
   To them God's glory was reveal'd:         The Babe in swaddling clothes arrayed:

   And to the shepherds sore afraid,         A host of angels fill'd the sky,
   An angel said, "Be not dismayed":         Thus singing praise to God on high:

   Tidings of joy to you I bring,            Now join we all the angel throng,
   Today is born a heav'nly King:            And let our voices swell the song:

Angels, from the Realms of Glory

This familiar carol is based on a French tune and arranged by Reginald Jacques. The same tune is used in France for Les anges dans nos campagnes, sung as Angels We Have Heard on High in English.

   Angels, from the realms of glory          Saints before the altar bending,
   Wing your flight o'er all the earth.      Watching long in hope and fear.
   Ye who sang creation's story              Suddenly, the Lord, descending,
   Now proclaim Messiah's birth.             In His temple shall appear.
   Gloria in excelsis Deo.                   Gloria in excelsis Deo.

   Shepherds in the field abiding            Though an infant now we view Him,
   Watching o'er your flocks by night:       He shall fill His Father's throne,
   God with man is now residing.             Gather all the nations to Him;
   Yonder stands the infant light.           Every knee shall then bow down!
   Gloria in excelsis Deo.                   Gloria in excelsis Deo.

   Sages, leave your contemplations;
   Brighter visions beam afar.
   Seek the great desire of nations;
   Ye have seen His natal star.
   Gloria in excelsis Deo.

O Jesu, Sweet Child

Bach's melody is light and the text reflective upon an intimate relationship with Christ, our Lord.

   O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!        O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!
   The Father's will Thou has fulfilled.       Love's image, Thou, all undefiled.
   Thou cam'st from heaven for our sake,       In flame our hearts with love's sweet fire.
   Our human flesh on Thee to take.            That love of Thee be our desire.
   O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!        O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!

   O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!        O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!
   The world with gladness Thou has filled,    Help us to do as Thou has willed,
   Thou cam'st to earth from heaven's height,  For all we have is Thine alone.
   With comfort in our bitter plight.          Oh guide, keep us for Thine own.
   O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!        O Jesu, sweet Child, o Jesu so mild!

Nowell

Randall Thompson has a particular knack for writing contemplative scores. Here, his Nowell is augmented by a setting of The First Noël as arranged by Douglas Bush. A similar arrangement of this piece has been performed by the Brigham Young University Men's Chorus in past years under the direction of Rosalind Hall.

   Nowell!

   The first Noël the angel did say
   Was to certain poor shepherds
   In fields where they lay
   Keeping their sheep on a cold winter's night
   That was so deep.
   Noël!

   Nowell!

   They lookèd up and saw a star
   Shining in the East beyond them far.
   And to the Earth it gave great light
   And so it continued both day and night.
   Noël!

   Nowell!

A Star Shall Rise Up Out of Jacob

Son of Moses Mendelssohn, the luminary Jewish philosopher, Abraham Mendelssohn converted to Christianity and his composer son, Felix, would write much for the Christian musical canon over his lifetime. In particular, this chorus from an unfinished oratorio about the Saviour invoking Messianic scripture with a reference to the traditional Wie shön leuchtet der Morgenstern ("How Brightly Shines the Morning Star").

   A star shall rise up out of Jacob
   And a sceptre shall come out of Isræl
   And dash in pieces princes and nations.

   As bright the star of morning gleams
   So Jesus sheddeth glorious beams
   Of light and consolation.
   Thy word, O Lord:
   Radiance darting, truth imparting,
   Gives salvation;
   Thine be praise and adoration!

Silent Night

The choir and congregation end this evening as every year by singing the traditional Silent Night. Austrian priest, Josef Mohr, wrote the text to this carol in 1816 and, two years later, it was set to music by school teacher and organist, Franz Gruber, in an Austrian church whose organ was broken and replaced for the evening's service by Gruber's guitar. The original German lyrics are given here too.

   Silent night, holy night!            Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
   All is calm, all is bright           Alles schläft; einsam wacht
   Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,   Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
   Holy Infant so tender and mild:      Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
   Sleep in heavenly peace.             Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

   Silent night, holy night!            Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
   Shepherds quake at the sight,        Hirten erst kundgemacht
   Glories stream from heaven afar,     Durch der Engel Halleluja,
   Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!        Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
   Christ, the Saviour is born.         Christ, der Retter ist da!

   Silent night, holy night!            Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
   Son of God, love's pure light.       Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
   Radiant beams from Thy holy face     Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
   With the dawn of redeeming grace,    Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
   Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!           Christ, in deiner Geburt!