Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Rich Choral Tapestry: CONCORA and "Christmas in the Americas"

On Friday evening, CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists) holds the first of five rehearsals to prepare for our upcoming concert, “Christmas in the Americas.” The concert takes place on Sunday, December 13, at 4:00 p.m., at Hartford’s historic Asylum Hill Congregational Church. (Details and ticket information are at the end of this post.)

I was thrilled to be invited to prepare the program notes for this concert, especially as I am one of the lucky CONCORA artists who has been assigned to this project. (Not all CONCORA singers sing in every concert.) Though this program has a clear theme – “music of North, Central, and South America, featuring sacred and secular carols, glees, spirituals, and part-songs, in a panoply of indigenous, colorful styles and languages” – the sheer diversity of the programming created some challenges for this program annotator. It’s easy to write a free-standing paragraph about each piece, but I prefer to find ways to connect the pieces to each other and to Mr. Coffey’s overall vision. That requires research, analysis, thinking, listening, and imagination. In other words, fun. As I wrote a few weeks ago (read it HERE), the process of deep research, the necessary distillation of information, and the exercise of writing concisely about a diverse program, profoundly enhances my musical preparation.

For this program, which includes music by about twenty different composers or arrangers, I took the unusual step of writing an introductory paragraph to provide context for the individual notes:

From Canada to Venezuela, from New England to the American Southwest, composers from the length and breadth of the Americas have woven a richly-colored choral tapestry, incorporating threads representing cultures and traditions from the Old and New Worlds. In today’s program, which spans more than four centuries of music, we will hear New World interpretations of folksongs from Renaissance France and Old Spain, as well as echoes of plainchant, the Anglican choral tradition, and the French Catholic influence in Native American communities. In the sturdy rhythms and bracing harmonies of the Sacred Harp and American Moravian traditions, in the plaintive strains of an Appalachian carol, and in the hopeful joy of African-American Christmas spirituals, we will be transported to earlier times in our own American history. And in the music of living composers from across the Americas, we will find masterful new creations that build on old traditions or establish “future classics.”

Over the next several days, I’ll share snippets of the information I’ve gathered about some of the selections on “Christmas in the Americas.” I do hope you can be in the audience to hear this remarkable program. I’ve posted the repertoire list at the very end of this post.

Call today for tickets!

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“Christmas in the Americas”
Richard Coffey, conductor
Dan Campolieta (piano, organ, and percussion) and Christen Hernandez (percussion)
Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.
Snow Date: Monday, December 14, 7:30 p.m.
Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Avenue, Hartford
Tickets: or call 860-224-7500
Preferred seating: $45; General admission: $25; Students: $10.
2-for-1 general seating tickets are available to those with a Let*s Go Arts!” card from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.


Hosanna (1765) – Christian Gregor (1723-180) (Moravian)

Choral Procession
Ya viene la vieja – Traditional Spanish carol, arr. Alice Parker (1953)

A Christmas Mass from Canada
Missa Brevis No. 4 in E Major (“Divinum Mysterium”) (1934) – Healey Willan (1880-1968)

A United States Suite
Northfield (1804) (from the Sacred Harp tradition) – Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1838)
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head – Appalachian Carol, arr. John Jacob Niles (1892-1980)
Long, Long Ago (1976) (for women’s voices) – Carlisle Floyd (b. 1926)
Noel (1995) (for men’s voices) – Steven Sametz (b. 1954)
Shout the Glad Tidings (from Three Choruses for Christmas, 1978) – Ned Rorem (b. 1923)

Sing with Us – an Audience Sing-Along (a beloved CONCORA tradition!)
From Canada: The Huron Carol (’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime), arr. Antony Baldwin (b. 1957)
From the Hispanic Southwest: A la Ru, arr. John Donald Robb (1892-1989)
From the United States: Away in a Manger, William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1892)


Gallery Carols – Music for Choir and Organ
From the United States: Down to the Roots of the World (1996) – Dan Locklair (b. 1949)
From Mexico: O lux beata caelitum (2005) (for women’s voices) – Francisco Alcantar (b. 1960)
From Canada: Joy Shall Be Yours in the Morning (1998) – Malcolm V. Edwards (b. 1944)

A Latin America Suite
From Mexico: Convidando esta la noche – Juan Garcia de Zéspedes (ca.1619-1678)
From Columbia: La noche – Adrián A. Cuello Piraquibis (b. 1975)
From Brazil: Kyrie eleison from Missa Afro-Brasileira (1978) – Carlos Alberto Pinto Fonseca (1933-2006)
From Venezuela: A adorar al Niño (2002) – arr. Andrew Carter (b. 1939)
Spanish Carol: Esta noche nace un Niño (1981) – arr. Andrew Carter

Folk Songs and Spirituals
Mary Borned a Baby – African-American Spiritual, arr. Noah Francis Ryder (1914-1964)
Go Tell It on the Mountain – African-American Spiritual, arr. Donald McCullough (b. 1957)

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