Carols for Christmastime

Season’s Greetings!

Yes, I am alive and well, even though I have been absent from the blogsphere :^). As I have these past three years, I have had the pleasure to plan for this year’s Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols with our chaplains. Since 1931, a Christmas Carol service has been observed at our Chapel and around 1990, our school adapted the form of Service of Lessons and Carols (see its interesting history here). It is one of my favorite school traditions that invites community members (faculty, parents, siblings, alumni, and community guests) to sing with our choirs for a night of glorious celebration. Each of the nine lessons are read by a student or faculty and followed by a corresponding carols of the Advent sung by all or by small choral ensembles.

As a vocal director, it’s a joy to look for arrangements that 1) are musically interesting, 2) highlight my students and challenge my advance singers, and 3) are relatively easy-to-follow arrangements for congregational singing.

Some of our favorite carols come from the 100 Carols for Choirs (edited and arranged by David Willcocks & John Rutter): Once in Royal David’s City, See Amid the Winter’s Snow, and Nativity Carol. In addition to these favorite carols from the book, here are some gems our choirs have discovered and have sung past three services (for some arrangements, I’ve had to contact the arranger directly…interesting times of digital downloads through PayPal!).

I know my students and I have our favorites from this list. If you find a new favorite, please leave me a comment!

Peace and joy to you,

ysl

Finding New Choral Music – Ola Gjeilo

Lately, I’ve been longing to hear great new music. New choral music to be specific. Sometimes, you just need to hear a beautiful SATB choir to fill you heart. I am excited to share my discoveries with you.

Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo

Norwegian-born composer who moved to the States to study  composition at the Julliard School. As a pianist-composer, he features the piano often as an equal partner to the choir much like how Schumann or Strauss set vocal-piano pairing in lieder. Take a listen to Ubi Caritas II with Piano Improvisation sung by the Central Washington University Chamber Choir (Gary Weidenaar, director), with an improvised piano accompaniment played by the composer:

As a choral conductor and singer, this music makes me want to  conduct, sing, and play it! Gorgeous harmonies and lyrical lines float on top of such well-written piano part. I think it was originally conceived as an a cappella piece; this particular version with piano works wonders. The music is uplifting, reverent, yet free, joyous, and moving. Being a pianist, I was really curious how the accompaniment is written, and how much of the video recording was Gjeilo’s improvisation. Gentle, but stylistic jazz piano licks are very nice. I found him on Twitter, so I mentioned him:

There you go! I’d love to see that transcription!

I also love Luminous Night of the Soul, scored for SATB, piano and string quartet; lyrics are by Charles Anthony Silvestri (lyricist for Eric Whitacre’s Sleep) and St. John of the Cross. I feel like I’m watching a movie when I listen to this piece. Like good storytelling, this music builds well into an epic symphonic ending.

 

And let me say that although I never heard of Central Washington University Chamber Choir before, I am now a fan. Kudos to its director, Gary Weidenaar, and music faculty! These students are musical. How fortunate that these students had the chance to work with a prolific composer!

I think any collegiate or adult choirs would love Gjeilo’s music. Perhaps, they will also suit some ambitious high school choruses.  You know, those choirs who love challenges and sing great  music. If you conduced Gjeilo’s music before, let me know which ones you have performed with your group. If his music is new to you, which one would you want to give a try?

Interesting fact: The Phoenix Chorale’s 2012 album, Northern Lights: Choral Works of Ola Gjeilo, featuring was voted “Best Classical Vocal Album of the Year” in iTunes Best of 2012. Way to go, Charles Bruffy & The Phoenix Chorale!

I am grateful for composers like Gjeilo who fill our world with compositions that make our hearts dance. I look forward to learning more about his music. I’m calling his style Neo-Romantic. What would you call it?

Check out his site or look him up on Spotify.

Be well & see you next timego and discover some new music!

@Doremigirl