Tenth Church’s tradition of celebrating Christ’s birth through vocal and instrumental music, Scripture reading and teaching, and congregational carol singing is a beloved highlight of the year and not to be missed! For our 2014 Lessons & Carols services on December 23 and 24 at 7:15 PM, the Tenth Church Choir, Westminster Brass, and Tenth Chamber Players will share a beautiful array of Christmas carols, anthems, and original arrangements.
The Westminster Brass and organist Bryan Anderson will open the evening’s prelude with the festive Fanfare and Variations on Noël Nouvelet. The prelude continues with my arrangement of another French carol, Masters in This Hall, performed by the Tenth Chamber Players and Bryan Anderson, this time as the piano soloist. The tune of this carol was composed for an opera in 1706, but the text we now associate with the music, which references the Magnificat (Mary’s song of praise), was penned by William Morris in 1860. Westminster Brass will then share an arrangement of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, and the prelude will conclude with my arrangement of two carols: Sing We Now of Christmas and Carol of the Bells. This piece will be performed by the Tenth Chamber Players, Westminster Brass, and Bryan Anderson.
The service itself will feature three well-known choruses from Handel’s beloved Messiah. Acting as beginning, middle, and ending pillars, these choruses will highlight some of the most well-known Christmas scripture references: Isaiah 40:5 (And the Glory of the Lord), Isaiah 9:6 (For Unto Us is Born), and Luke 2:14 (Glory to God). Interspersed between these choruses are a diverse selection of Christmas anthems, each preceded by Scripture passages read by Dr. Goligher and members of the congregation.
Good News is in the Air, by the 16th century German composer and organist Hans Leo Hassler, is a brisk Baroque motet which expresses the joy and exuberance of how “the dark of night is ended…Let bells now ring, all Christians sing, be joyful!” This will be followed by the poignant 16th Century carol, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. Sung by both the choir and congregation, this carol will feature two soloists, Dayna Hepler, violin, and Nathaniel D. Fletcher, tenor. The choir will then perform The Shepherd’s Farewell, composed in 1850 by the French composer Hector Berlioz. This beautiful musical portrait of the shepherd’s interaction with the baby Jesus was so popular during Berlioz’s lifetime that he was encouraged by many to expand the work, which he did, writing an entire oratorio entitled, The Childhood of Christ.
In contrast to the lullaby quality of The Shepherd’s Farewell is the energetic carol, God Himself Comes Down From Heaven, composed by Paul Liljestrand on a text by Christopher Wordsworth. Following another congregational carol, O Come, All Ye Faithful, Dr. Goligher will give a brief Christmas message entitled, “Unto Us a Child.” The choir will then perform Carol of the Birds, which is based on a traditional French melody. The music has a beautiful folk quality and closes with the exhortation, “Christ is born, Noel, Noel. Sing ye now, Noel!” The final carol also happens to be the oldest, composed as early as the late 15th Century. Entitled “Rejoice” or Gaudete in the original Latin, this carol is a typical medieval song of praise, which consists of a series of four stanzas, each preceded by a refrain. The verses will be performed by soloists from the Tenth Choir: Esther Oh, Nathaniel D. Fletcher, Keith Dufendach, and Erin Swanson.
To close the evening of Christmas song and Scripture, the congregation and choir will sing a beautiful medley of three beloved carols: Once in Royal David’s City, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Silent Night. The first verse of Silent Night will be sung twice: first by the choir in the original German and then in English by the congregation. The second verse will feature the choir a cappella and the strings and organ will join on the third verse. Finally, all voices and instruments will sing the final verse together in a soaring exclamation of our Savior’s glorious birth. We hope you will join us in exalting his name this Christmas!
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