Oregon Repertory Singers presents
Glory of Christmas
4pm, December 3, 2017
7:30pm, December 8, 2017
4pm, December 10, 2017 
First United Methodist Church

PROGRAM NOTES

Welcome to Oregon Repertory Singers’ 2017 edition of Glory of Christmas!

Following a welcoming prelude performance from the Oregon Repertory Singers Youth Choirs, this year we begin the program with Benjamin Britten’s hugely popular Ceremony of Carols, for the unusual combination of treble chorus and harp: a masterpiece born of unusual circumstances. In 1942, after three very successful years in America, Benjamin Britten boarded a Swedish cargo vessel to return to Britain. The journey took over a month, and U-boat activity was at its height. This must have been a journey alternating between boredom and terror for Britten, as he was housed in a storage cabin with no windows.

He avoided both emotions by composing at a furious rate, working on his Hymn to St. Cecilia and a piece for Benny Goodman. He intended to finish these on board, but customs officials in Halifax confiscated the manuscripts on the doubtful proposition that they could be a secret code. Later in life, Britten managed to restart and finish the Hymn; but the Goodman piece was lost forever.

While stalled in Halifax, Britten acquired a book called The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems and a small hand harp, as he had been commissioned to write a harp concerto and wished to better understand the instrument. The variety of texts in the Galaxy, which span four centuries, inspired Britten to write each movement of his Ceremony of Carols in a different style: beginning and ending with Medieval plainchant and covering centuries of styles in between and, of course, featuring the harp.

After intermission, the tenors and basses of ORS will sing traditional carols, as well as winter songs (including a sledding song!) by Estonian composer Veljo Tormis and two gorgeous settings of Robert Frost poetry by American composer Randall Thompson.

We conclude the program by reuniting the entire choir on stage for the Northwest premiere of Morten Lauridsen’s Ya Eres Mía, which ORS will record in January for our upcoming album. We welcome our guest youth choirs for a finale with our perennial favorites: Adolphe Adam’s beloved O Holy Night and our own Naomi LaViolette’s setting of Noel. We wish you all a joyous holiday season and hope to see you at future concerts in 2018.

Program notes by Ethan Sperry
November 2017