Having to describe a November concert with a theme of winter after one of the warmest Octobers in recorded meteorology is, well, problematic. Yes, we live in upstate New York where many of us can remember snow up to whatever height, that lasted for weeks, and bitter cold winds. Sitting here in my home in shorts with the windows open on Nov. 1 makes it difficult for me to turn to thoughts of snowflakes, darkness, and holiday music! But we know that winter weather is just around the corner.
This program is a diverse mix of sacred and secular music appropriate for the upcoming season of winter. We open with “Here We Come A-Caroling,” a brand-new arrangement by Josh Sparkman of the traditional English carol of the same name. One cannot lay aside the musical treasures of the Christian tradition: Luboff’s, “Still, Still, Still” and “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Harold Darke are two gorgeous mid-20th century pieces crafted with rich harmonies to announce the birth of the Christ Child. Both of John Rutter’s pieces, “Candlelight Carol,” written in 1984, and almost 30 years later, his “All Bells in Paradise,” use the biblical narrative with shepherds and angels and kings all arriving in Bethlehem. Al Fedak’s compositions, written for church use, remind us of the new year to come and hope for our future. Originally composed in Norwegian, some may recognize Ola Gjeilo’s use of the German text, “Es Ist Ein Ros’ Ensprungen” (as in the carol, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”) in his “Spotless Rose.” The lively “African Noel” rounds out the sacred part of the concert.
Metaphorical thoughts of winter as we age are expressed through Randall Stroope’s masterful rendition of Kahlil Gibran’s poetry. Sheena Phillips’ music paints a fanciful picture of a bird singing at midnight in the stable with a delightful flute solo, in “The Christmas Bird.”
We end with two secular pieces, a novelty number called, “The Twelve Days after Christmas,” which is sure to provoke some giggles, and a very engaging Alice Parker arrangement of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
So please enjoy our music this afternoon and begin the winter season on a pleasant note!