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Gaudete – arr. Steven Sametz

It Fell Upon the High Midnight – Paul Gibson (b. 1952)

Wexford Carol – arr. Dale Warland

Gaudete – arr. Kira Rugen

Gaudete – arr. Anders Öhrwall

In dulci jubilo
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
Verbum caro factum est
Gloria in excelsis deo
Dies est laetitiae
Ecce novum gaudium
Resonet in laudibus

Gaudete! Christus Est Natus – arr. Robert Boyd

The Three Kings – Healy Willan (1880-1968)

I Saw Three Ships – arr. Philip Stopford

Angels We Have Heard on High – arr. Drew Collins

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – arr. Jim Taylor

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The inspiration for Gaudete (Rejoice) comes from the late 16th century, the time of Galileo, Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, China’s Ming Dynasty, and the founding of the North American colony of Roanoke. In 1582 a young Swede named Theodoricus Petri Nylandensis edited 74 Latin songs and published them as the collection Piae cantiones while he was still a university student. Many of those melodies became the basis for beloved carols popularized in the 19th century in Britain, and later in America.

American composer Steven Sametz was born in 1954, and holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany. He teaches at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania while leading The Princeton Singers, and has written for numerous choirs including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Dale Warland Singers, and Chanticleer, the ensemble which commissioned his “Gaudete.”

Paul Gibson’s “It Fell Upon the High Midnight” won the 2005 Christmas Carol Competition sponsored by the American Composers Forum and VocalEssence. Born in Sacramento in 1952, Gibson began composing at the age of eight, and studied at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles and California State University Northridge. He sings in the Los Angeles Master Chorale and works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he was commissioned to arrange hymns for the 1987 papal visit. For these performances, the bassoon takes the place of a cello.

Since disbanding the highly regarded Dale Warland Singers in 2004, American choral conductor Dale Warland has increasingly turned his hand to composing and teaching. Born in 1932, Warland studied at St. Olaf College, then started a choir in the U.S. Air Force before completing degrees at the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern California. His choir, which was known for championing the work of living composers, performed for 31 years, and now Warland serves as Artistic Director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale and Music Director for the Minnesota Beethoven Music Festival Chorale. His arrangement of the ancient Irish “Wexford Carol” was created for his own singers.

Another unusual Gaudete arrangement comes from Phoenix Chorale soprano Kira Zeeman Rugen, a choral conducting doctoral candidate at Arizona State University. As a faculty associate, Rugen directs both ASU’s Solis Camerata and the ASU Choral Union. She also sings with Anúna, Ireland’s national choir, and served as director of youth choirs at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church. Rugen created her version of “Gaudete” for the male voices in one of her ASU choirs.

This program is particularly distinguished by the Gaudete written by former Phoenix Chorale conductor Anders Öhrwall and performed by the Chorale in his memory. Born in 1932, Öhrwall was a pianist and harpsichordist talented in both jazz improvisation and meticulous Baroque interpretation, working with groups as distinguished as Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Concentus Musicus Wien. He founded and led the Bach Choir at Stockholm’s Church of Adolf Fredrik from 1964 to 2000, also directing the Swedish Radio Choir, the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, and the Stockholm Philharmonic Choir. Known for his numerous arrangements and compositions, Öhrwall created his Gaudete for the Swedish Radio Youth Choir, another ensemble under his baton. His honors included the Litteris et Artibus royal medal for outstanding artistic achievement as well as membership in the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Öhrwall conducted the Phoenix Chorale for two years when it was known as the Bach & Madrigal Society of Phoenix, leading the ensemble’s transition to the Phoenix Bach Choir from 1990 to 1992. He died on February 4, 2012 at the age of 79.

Uniquely set for voices with flute, oboe, and bassoon, Öhrwall’s work is sung in Latin, and stands apart from other versions as a grouping of songs under the title Gaudete, greatly expanded from the typical single work. The suite begins with “Rejoice (Gaudete)” and continues with an instrumental sinfonia featuring a tune known as the carol “Come, All Ye Shepherds.” Other familiar melodies include “In Dulci Jubilo” (“Good Christian Men, Rejoice”) and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” which uses text by American musicologist Theodore Baker.

From singer, educator, and composer Robert A. Boyd comes “Gaudete! Christus Est Natus (Rejoice! Christ Is Born),” written for the St. Charles Singers of Illinois. Boyd earned degrees from Concordia College and Northwestern University, where he currently serves as lecturer.

Canadian composer Healey Willan, who loved Wagnerian opera and plainsong, used verse by English writer Laurence Housman for “The Three Kings.” Willan’s numerous compositions include motets, masses, orchestral and keyboard music, and dramatic works including The Beggar’s Opera. He served in various positions at the University of Toronto, Hart House Theatre, St. Mary Magdalene, and the Toronto Conservatory.

English composer Philip Stopford was born in 1977 and sang as a chorister at Westminster Abbey before studying at Oxford University, where he led the Chapel Choir. Stopford became Organ Scholar at Truro Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral, then Assistant Organist at Chester Cathedral and later Director of Music at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

Stopford arranged the traditional English carol “I Saw Three Ships” (about sailing into landlocked Bethlehem) as part of a larger work, Celtic Christmas, composed for the choral ensemble Melisma of Northern Ireland. “It uses the chorus as the instrumental accompaniment,” says Charles Bruffy, “and it’s kind of a jaunty little setting.”

With degrees from Minnesota’s Concordia College, Boston University, and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, conductor-composer Drew Collins now serves as Associate Director of Choral Studies and Music Education at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Collins uses three treble voices against three male voices to symbolize sets of angels and shepherds in “Angels We Have Heard on High,” creating what he calls “a sort of ‘mini choral opera,’ applying the drama of the Christmas story to an otherwise simple melody.” In adapting the French carol, he chose 7/8 meter both for its Middle Eastern complexity and for the Biblical significance of the number seven.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” uses words by Methodist leader Charles Wesley set to music by Felix Mendelssohn. The arranger is Jim Taylor, who created this version to the specifications of his friend Charles Bruffy. “It’s the ‘Hark! The Herald…’ that we know,” says Bruffy with a smile, “but this time ‘Herald’ has a little more character.” Taylor, who attended the University of North Texas, the University of Miami, and the University of Alabama, is Director of Choral Activities at Kilgore College in east Texas.

– Katrina Becker

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After earning a degree from Northern Arizona University and working in operations for The Phoenix Symphony, violinist Katrina Becker spent ten years as Public Affairs Coordinator, on-air music host, and producer at all-classical 89.5 KBAQ. She currently continues voiceover work and freelance writing, including program notes and magazine articles.