Friday, December 9, 2011

“Who is there that singeth so?” – CONCORA, of course!

“Who is there that singeth so?”  That is the opening line of “Sir Christèmas,” one of the many wonderful selections on CONCORA’s upcoming concert, “Christmas Through the Ages.” We’ll be performing Sunday, December 11, at 4:00 p.m., at Center Church in Hartford, and will repeat the program on December 16 in Hampton and December 22 in Norfolk (details at the end of this post).

Here’s my program note about William Mathias’ setting of “Sir Christèmas”

According to musicologist David C.F. Wright,* the music of Welsh composer William Mathias (1934-1992) is characterized by "infectious rhythmic vitality and spicy harmonies.” These qualities are abundantly demonstrated in his “Sir Christèmas,” a rollicking, no-holds-barred celebration of the earthly joys ― and pagan roots ― of Christmas. “Sir Christèmas” is the English Father Christmas, the red-robed personification of Christmas and a visitor during the Yuletide (not to be confused with the gift-giving St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, or Santa Claus). This “rumbustious” music, with its strong rhythms and bold harmonies, is the fourth carol in Mathias’ carol cycle Ave Rex, composed in 1969. The organ accompaniment leaps and bounds about in counterpoint to the voices. The text, perhaps written as dialogue for a Christmas play, is attributed to one Richard Smart, rector (1435-1477) of Plymtree in Devon, England.

Here’s the old text, which is really a dialog between Sir Christèmas and the villagers to whom he brings tidings of Christ's birth:

Nowell, nowell!
Who is there that singeth so?
I am here, Sir Christèmas.
Welcome, my lord Sir Christèmas!
Welcome to all, both more and less!
Come near, come near, come near,
Nowell, nowell.

Dieu vous garde, beaux sieurs,
Tidings I you bring:
A maid hath borne a child full young,
Which causeth you to sing:
Nowell, nowell.

Christ is now born of a pure maid,
Born of a pure maid;
In an ox-stall he is laid,
Wherefore sing we at a brayde:
Nowell, nowell.

Buvez bien, buvez bien
Par toute la compagnie.
Make good cheer and be right merry,
And sing with us now joyfully!
Nowell, nowell

(at a brayde = in a moment; right away)

Here’s an old etching of Father Christmas:

Do come to the concert to hear this, and other songs of “Christmas Through the Ages.”

You can read all my posts about CONCORA’s Christmas programs, including lots more information about this upcoming concert, and a listing of all the selections on the program, here:

CONCORA presents “Christmas Through the Ages”
Richard Coffey, Artistic Director and Conductor
Sunday, December 11, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Center Church, 60 Gold Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Information: or 860-293-0567

Two additional performances!

Friday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Congregational Church, 163 Main Street, Hampton, Connecticut
Information: or 860-293-0567

Thursday, December 22, 8:00 p.m.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, Route 44, Norfolk, Connecticut
Information, Tickets, and Directions:  or 866-666-6306


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