The London Singers - 2014 Christmas Concert Notes

Our 15th Anniversary Celebration Choral Concert will feature the beautiful "Snow Angel" by renowned Canadian composer, London`s own, Sarah Quartel and John Rutter`s choral masterwork "Mass of the Children", plus festive seasonal favourites and sing-a-long carols. In keeping with our tradition, our new African song this year is "O Sifuni Mungu", a rousing rendition of the well-known hymn, "All Creatures of our God and King".

Snow Angel

"Snow Angel" is a five-movement choral work written by Sarah Quartel that is touching singers and audiences across the globe. After receiving performances at a host of prestigious venues including the 10th World Symposium on Choral Music, the 2014 Chorus America Conference, and on CBC Radio's 2011 nationwide Christmas Eve broadcast, Snow Angel is becoming a regularly performed work across Canada and the United States. Demand for the piece internationally is continuing to grow and the set has been performed by choirs in England, Australia, South Korea and The Netherlands.

Through song and narrative, "Snow Angel" weaves together stories of love and light, rebirth and rejuvenation and highlights the strength and beauty a child's voice can bring to our often troubled world.

Canadian composer, conductor and educator Sarah Quartel is known for her fresh and exciting approach to the choral experience. Sarah celebrates the musical potential of all learners by providing singers access to high quality repertoire and engaging music education. Her works are performed throughout the world and her curriculum documents are used to connect the excitement of choral festivals with meaningful classroom learning.

This London premiere will be performed with a new orchestration for string orchestra. Our combined adult (The London Singers), young adult (The H.B. Beal Secondary School Singers), and children's (The Pearson Singers) choirs weave a magnificent tapestry of sound to support the dulcet tones of our soloists, soprano Amira McCavitt and baritone, Gregory Dunleavy, to give you a performance you will never forget.

Notes from Sarah Quartel (http://www.sarahquartel.com/snow-angel.php)

Mass of the Children - John Rutter (b. 1945)

  1. Kyrie
  2. Gloria
  3. Sanctus & Benedictus
  4. Agnus Dei
  5. Finale

Though he is perhaps best known for his carols and other short pieces, John Rutter also has a number of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra to his name. The London Singers and Beal Singers performed his "Gloria" in our "Glory of Christmas" Concert in 2010.

The Mass of the Children received its première in Carnegie Hall, New York, in February 2003, and the first UK performance followed a month later in Guildford Cathedral, the composer conducting on both occasions. The work is scored for adult mixed choir, children's choir, soprano and baritone soloists and orchestra. The Mass is a Missa Brevis - a Latin Mass without a Credo - in five movements. Several additional English texts are also included, and these form a progression from waking to sleeping that runs through the work as a counterpart to the liturgy of the conventional Mass text.

The piece does not begin immediately with the Kyrie Eleison but, in keeping with the 'waking to sleeping' theme, opens with the children's choir singing lines from Bishop Thomas Ken's fine morning hymn, 'Awake, my soul, and with the sun', written in about 1674 for the scholars of Winchester College. After the Kyrie comes an exuberant Gloria featuring energetic, unequal rhythms that are typical of Rutter at his liveliest, and then a complete change of mood is introduced with the gently lilting harmonies of the Sanctus and Benedictus. The Agnus Dei text is divided between the fourth and fifth movements, with the first part being followed by William Blake's moving poem, 'The Lamb', sung by the children's choir. The final movement begins with two prayers by John Rutter, for the baritone and soprano soloists, based on verses by Lancelot Andrewes and St Patrick. The Mass now returns to the poetry of Bishop Ken. In one of Rutter's most inspired passages the beautiful evening hymn, 'Glory to thee, my God, this night' is sung by the children to the sublime melody of Tallis's Canon whilst the adults chant 'Dona nobis pacem' (Grant us thy peace). Finally the choirs are joined by the soloists, and the combined voices gradually bring the work to its peaceful conclusion.

The idea of combining a children's choir with an adult one is of course nothing new, but most of these works tend to treat the young voices as a subsidiary musical resource. In his Mass of the Children, however, the composer has given the children's choir a central part to play. It is they, not the adults, who are heard at the very outset, and their role throughout is integral to the overall concept of the Mass. As always with Rutter, the music is beautifully written for the voices and superbly orchestrated. His skilful writing for soloists, choirs and orchestra and his sensitive interweaving of the various Latin and English texts has resulted in one of his finest and most moving works.

Notes by John Bawden (http://www.choirs.org.uk/prognotes)

O Sifuni Mungu (All Creatures of Our God and King)

David Maddux, Marty McCall, Mmunga Mwenebulongo, Asukulu `Yunu Mukalay,
Arr. David Maddux 1988

Viumbe vyote vya Mungu wetu na Mfal me wtuAll creatures of our God and King
Pazeni sauti ilinasi mwimbeLift up your voice and sing with us
Watu wote,All men,
Viumbe vyote,All creatures,
Awaye ote,Everybody,
Sifuni Mungu.Praise God.

Based on the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King" this piece has lively African rhythms and wonderful percussion elements that will get you moving. It presents a simple message that rings out across cultures.

"O Sifuni Mungu" (1987) is an African variation of the familiar hymn by W. H. Draper (1855-1933), based on Saint Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of the Sun"; which was derived from the ancient canticle "Benedicite, omnia opera Domini" ('Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord'), also called "A Song of Creation". Its source is "The Song of the Three", found in the Greek version of the Old Testament made for the Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt, in the book of Daniel between 3.23 and 3.24: it is the song sung by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego while they were in the blazing furnace into which they had been cast by order of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon.

Notes by: Donald F. Burrill, Professor Emeritus
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada


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