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8.555049 - CHRISTMAS Star Over Bethlehem: Choral Jewels for Christmas

A Star Over Bethlehem


Brich an, O schönes Morgenlicht, from the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

This radiant chorale comes in the second section of the Christmas Oratorio, as the angel appears to the shepherds.







Brirh an, o schönes Morgenlicht,

Und laß den Himmel tagen!

Du Hirtenvolk, erschrecke nicht,

weil dir die Engel sagen:

d dieses schwache Knäbelein

soll unser Trost  und Freude sein

dazu den Satan zwillgen

und letztlich Frieden bringen.

Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,

and usher in the morning;

Ye shepherds, shrink not with affright,

but hear the Angel's warning­:

This child, now weak in infancy,

our confidence and joy shall be,

the pow'r of Satan breaking,

our peace eternal making.







Chanticleer, by Richard Wayne Dirksen (born 1921)

Most of us are familiar with the superstition, mentioned in the opening scene of Hamlet, that at Christmastide the rooster crows all night long. In Hamlet the cock crows to insure that no evil spirits walk in this season. The rooster in William Austin's poem (written around 1600) crows rather to wake all the world to the wonderful news of Christ's birth­.







All this night shrill Chanticleer,

Day's proclaiming trumpeter,

Claps his wings and loudly cries,

Mortals, Mortals, wake and rise!

See a wonder Heav'n is under;

From the earth is ris'n a Sun,

Shines all night tho' day be done.

Hail, O Sun, O blessed Light!

Sent into the world by night!

Let thy rays and heavenly pow'rs,

Shine in these dark souls of ours.

For most duly Thou art truly

God and man we do confess:

Hail, O Sun of Righteousness!







Wake, O earth, wake ev'rything,

Wake and hear the joy I bring;

Wake and joy, for all this night,

Heav'n and ev'ry twinkling light,

All amazing still stand gazing,

Angels, Pow'rs, and all that be.

Wake and joy this Sun to see.







In dulci jubilo, arr. John Rutter (born 1945)

The old German macaronic carol (the term macaronic referring to the mixing of two languages) in a spirited arrangement.







In dulci jubilo

Let us our homages show!

Our heartis joy reclineth,

In praesepio,

And like a bright star shineth,

Matris in gremio,

Alpha es et 0!

Alpha es et 0!

0 Patris caritas!

0 Nati lenitas!

Deeply were we stained

per nostra crimina;

But Thou hast for us gained

coelorum gaudia:

0 that we were there!

0 that we were there!







O Jesu parvule,

I yearn for thee alway!

Hear me, I beseech thee,

O Puer optime;

My prayer then let it reach thee

O Princeps Gloriae,

trahe me post te!

trahe me post te !

Ubi sunt gaudia,

If they be not there?

There are angels singing

Nova cantica,

And there the bells are ringing

in Regis curia;

O that we were there!

O that we were there!







Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, by Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987)

The text of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree comes from a collection of texts made in New Hampshire in 1784. Poston's setting is white-note music: in C major without accidentals. The sound suggests American shape-note music to some members of the chorus, English folksong to others.







In Dir ist Freude (In Thee Is Joy), BWV 615, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

J. Reilly Lewis, organ

By far the most elaborate chorale prelude from Bach's Orgelbüchlein, and among the most joyous. The pedal figure which drives this movement gives an almost Beethovenian insistence to its joy.







O Jesulein süss, BWV 493, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach wrote this quiet but profound carol for voice and figured bass; the inner parts were realized for the Oxford Book of Carols, probably by Martin Shaw.







O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild,

Des Vaters, Will'n hast du erfüllt,

Bist kommen aus dem Himmelreich,

Uns armen Menschen worden gleich,

O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild!

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus,

You have fulfilled your father's wish;

You came down from heaven

To become like one of us poor people,

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus.







O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild,

Des Vaters Zorn hast du gestillf,

Du zahlst für uns all uns're Schuld,

Und schaffst uns deines Vaters Huld,

O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild!

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus,

You have calmed your father's anger;

You bear all our guilt,

And you bring us your father¡¦s favour.

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus.







O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild,

Du bist der Lieb'ein Ebenbild.

Zünd an in uns der Liebe Flamm,

Dass wir dich lieben allzusamm,

O Jesulein süss, O Jesulein mild!

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus,

You are the personification of love;

ignite within us the flames of love,

So that we may all love you together.

O sweet little Jesus, O gentle little Jesus.







Von himmel hoch (From Highest Heaven), by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

J. Reilly Lewis, organ

In Pachelbel's prelude two pastoral lines play above the slow bass of the chorale tune appropriate for a chorale which paraphrases the angel's message to the shepherds.







Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (Cantata 1), BWV 1, final chorale, by Johann Sebastian Bach

Philipp Nicolai's noble chorale was customarily sung in the streets of Leipzig to announce the beginning of Advent. Bach's Cantata 1 closes with a straightforward harmonization of the chorale: but the second horn suggests the festiveness of the tune.







Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh,

dass mein Schatz ist das A und O,

der Anfang und das Ende;

Er wird mich doch zu seinem Preis

auf nehmen in das Paradeis,

dess klopf¡¦ ich in die Hände!

Amen! Amen! Komm¡¦, du schöne

Freuden krone,

bleib' nicht lange,

deiner wart' ich mit Verlangen.

How happy I am,

for my love is Alpha and Omega,

the beginning and the end.

He will for his glory

bear me up to Paradise:

therefore I clap my hands.

Amen! Amen! Come, dear

cross of joy,

do not delay;

I await you with longing.






Wie schön leuchtetder Morgenstern (Cantata 1), BWV 1, opening chorus, by Johann Sebastian Bach

As elaborate as the preceding harmonization was simple. If it sounds a little like a wedding procession, that's because the text speaks of awaiting the bridegroom. Even for those of us who know Bach's cantatas fairly well, this movement has a special significance: it opens the monumental Bach-Gesellschaft edition of Bach's complete works. It is a worthy opener for that grandest of Complete Works editions.







Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

voll Gnad' und Wahrheit

von dem Herrn,

die süsse Wurzel Jesse!

Du Sohn David's aus Jakob's Stamm,

mein König und mein Bräutigam,

has mir mein Herz besessen.

How brightly shines the Morning Star,

filled with the truth and grace

of God,

sweet stem of Jesse!

Son of David from Jacob's line,

my King and Bridegroom,

you have taken possession of my heart.







Lieblich, freundlich,

schön und herrlich, gross

und ehrlich,

reich von Gaben,

hoch und sehr prächtig erhaben.

Lovely, friendly,

beauteous, noble, great,

and honourable,

rich with gifts,

exalted high and splendid.







He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, arr. Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)

Janice Chandler, soprano, Joseph Holt, piano

One of the classic voice-and-piano spiritual arrangements, by one of the great figures in spiritual arranging.







In dulci jubilo, by Marcel Dupré ( 1886-1971)

J. Reilly Lewis, organ

A quiet organ prelude on this joyful song, from his 1931 collection of 79 Chorales.







A Spotless Rose, by Herbert Howells (1892-1971 )

James Shaffran, baritone

The text of the carol Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming, in a different translation from the original German, becomes one of the great mystical motets of this century.







Mariä Wiegenlied (Mary's Cradle Song, from Schlichte Weisen), by Max Reger (1873-1916)

Janice Chandler, soprano

Schlichte Weisen means 'simple melodies'; Reger, the master of late-Romantic harmonic complexity, renounces his usual style to produce a beautiful and calm meditation. This is Reger's own orchestration of the original voice-and-piano version.






Maria sitzt am Rosenhag und wiegt ihr Jesuskind.

durch dieBlätter leise weht der warme Sommerwind.

Zu ihren Füssen singt ein buntes Vögelein:

Schlaf¡¦, Kindlein, süsses,

schlaf nun ein.

Amid the roses Mary sits and rocks her Jesus child,

While amid the treetops sighs the breeze so warm and mild.

And soft and sweetly sings a bird upon the bough:

Ah, baby, dear one,

slumber now.







Hold ist dein Lächeln. holder deines Schlummers Lust,

leg dein mudes Kopfchen fest an deiner Mutter Bust!

Schlaf¡¦ Kindlein, süsses,

schlaf nun ein.

Happy is Thy laughter, holy is Thy silent rest,

Lay Thy head in slumber, fondly on Thy Mother's breast!

Ah, baby, dear one,

slumber now.







There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob (from Christus), by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Mendelssohn never finished his oratorio Christus, which was to be the middle section of a trilogy with his Elijah and St. Paul. Among the completed movements is this radiant meditation on Numbers 24:17, which closes in one more evocation of the chorale Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.







There shall a star come out of Jakob,

and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel,

with might destroying princes and cities!



As bright the star of morning gleams,

so Jesus sheddeth glorious beams

of light and consolation.

Thy Word. O Lord. Radiance darting,

Truth imparting, gives salvation;

Thine be praise and adoration!







Deck the Halls. arr. James McKelvy

The old carol appears here dressed up in modern 7/8 meter, as dancing and irresistible as the standard 4/4 version.







Babe of Bethlehem, by Edmund Walters

Walters' cheerily offhand tune (the words are by Peter Kennerley) turns out on its third go-around to be a counterpoint to the tune of Away in a Manger, hummed by the men. (Note to those who, like the writer of these notes, learned Away in a Manger to the tune of Flow Gently, Sweet Afton: this is the other tune.)







Pastorale, BWV 590 (second movement), by J.S. Bach

J. Reilly Lewis, organ

Bach's Pastorale for organ is a meditative four-movement work of which only the first has a title: the work as a whole takes its title from that movement. The second movement is a cheery Allemande for manuals only.






Tu scendi dalle stelle, by Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), arr. Walter Ehret

A carol for the women of the chorus directly from the pages of Walter Erhet's admirable anthology The International Book of Christmas Carols.







Tu scendi dalle stelle

O Re del Cielo

E vieni in una grotta

AI freddo al gelo

O Bambino mio Divino

1o Ti vedo qui tremar!

O Dio beato! O quanto

Ti costo l'avermi amato!

A te, che sei del mondo

Il creatore,

Mancano panni e fuoco,

O mio Signore.

Caro, eletto pargoletto,

Quanto questa povertà

Più m' innamora,

Giacche ti fece amor povero ancora

From starry skies Thou comest,

The King of Heav'n foretold,

Appearing in a manger,

Near frozen from the cold.

Jesus, dearest little Baby,

How I long to make Thee warm!

To shelter Thee from harm!

My heart is filled with pity for thy tiny form!

In Heav'n Thou wert Creator,

The True and Only Word,

Yet here on earth no fire, Lord,

To keep Thee from the cold.

Jesus, dearest little baby,

Come in direst poverty,

Would I had gifts for Thee!

How wonderful God's love that suffers here for me!







[Here We Come a-Wassailing, arr. John Rutter

We hear the wassailers approach, make their demands, and go away in this jaunty arrangement of a traditional carol.







Kling, Glöckchen, Traditional German carol, arr. Walter Ehret / Dotian Levalier

Dotian Levalier, harp

Another carol from Ehret's International Book of Christmas Carols sung by the women of the chorus, who also supply some informal percussion.







Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Laßt mich ein, ihr Kinder,

Ist so kalt der Winter,

Öffnet mir die Türen,

Laßt mich nicht erfrieren.

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!

Maid and Infant tender,

Will you let Us enter?

To Us shelter giving,

And the Father praising'?

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!







Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Mädchen hört und Bübchen,

Macht mir auf das Stübchen,

Bring euch viele Gaben,

Sollt euch dran erlaben.

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!

O how cold the winter!

Will you let Me enter?

Do not bar the doorway

On my blessed birthday!

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!







Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Hell erglühn die Kerzen,

Öffnet mir die Herzen!

Will drin wohnen fröhlich,

Frommes Kind, wie selig!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling,

Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!

In our hearts now stealing,

mid the bells all pealing,

Joy and blessing holy

From the Child so lowly,

Ring, bells, go tingalingaling,

Ring, little bells!







Wachet auf (Sleepers Awake), BWV 645, by J.S, Bach

J. Reilly Lewis, organ

Bach fashioned this organ chorale from the fourth movement of his Cantata 140. The text of the cantata movement announces that Zion has heard the voice of the watchman calling out that the Bridegroom approaches: her heart leaps with joy and she arises to meet him. Thus this chorale, like the opening movement of Wie schön Leuchtet der Morgenstern, has the character of a joyful ceremonial procession.







Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, by John Gardner (born 1917)

This much-set traditional carol text (other composers who have set it include Gustav Holst and Igor Stravinsky) dances jazzily in Gardner's setting for chorus, piano, and percussion. The carol text in its entirety tells the full story of Jesus's life; Gardner sets only the Christmas portion.







Hodie Christus natus est, SWV 456, by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Schütz divides the traditional text of the Antiphon for Christmas Day into a series of short verses (each one different) separated by a refrain of repeated Alleluias. The refrains suggest the polychoral texture of Schütz¡¦s tellcher, Giovanni Gabrieli: the verses are playful and contrapuntal save for the massive choral unison on 'Gloria': At this word we hear the multitude of the heavenly host.







Hodie Chrislus natus est. Alleluja!

Hodie Salvalor apparuit. Alleluja!

Hodie in terra canunt angeli.

laelantur archangeli. Alleluja!

Hodie exultant justi


Gloria in excelsis Deo. et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.


On this day Christ is born. Alleluia!

On this day the Savior appeareth. Alleluia!

On this day on earth the angel hosts

sing, rejoicing archangels sing. Alleluia!

On this day the righteous triumph


Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.






Sweet Little Jesus Boy, by Robert MacGimsey (1898-1979)

Janice Chandler, soprano

MacGimsey wrote this song in 1934 in homage to the great tradition of the African-American spiritual. Since then it has been absorbed into the tradition; Janice Chandler sings it in spiritual style, unaccompanied.



Wayne D. Shirley

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