Blessed Is the Lord (Benedictus) Dan Forrest, b. 1978
The Benedictus is traditionally considered the song (as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, 1:68-79) of the priest Zechariah in announcing the name of his son, who is to become known as John the Baptist. In this anthem the text (by Presbyterian evangelist R. C. Sproul, b. 1939) summarizes the story of Zechariah and his response:
Benedictus, blessed is our Lord. Benedictus, welcome His Incarnate Word.
Chosen first among the priests to serve within the temple walls,
Zacharias stood in awe when he heard the angel call.
“Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, will come to raise salvation’s horn.
God Incarnate, Word made flesh, to a virgin shall be born.”
Christ brings light, our Dayspring, Jesus, from on high,
Saints and angels sing God’s praise. All the earth and Heav’ns reply:
Benedictus, blessed is our Lord. Benedictus, welcome His Incarnate Word.
(Used by permission of Beckenhorst Press, Inc.)
Composer Dan Forrest holds a doctoral degree in composition from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in piano performance from Bob Jones University (where he later served as Department Head of Theory and Composition). His choral works have received many distinctions, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award. His elegy “Good Night, Dear Heart” was included in GCA’s October 2010 concert.
Joy to the World – an Audience Carol Sing-Along (see page ) Arr. Mack Wilberg, b. 1955
Long thought to be exclusively a Christmas carol, this familiar hymn (tune by Handel, text by Isaac Watts) is increasingly recognized as appropriate to Advent as well. The arranger of this setting, Mack Wilberg, is the conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as well as its music director since 2008.
Noëls Anciens Arr. Donald Patriquin, b. 1938
The choral score explains that “The Noëls Anciensare a form of popular literature, spiritual songs of the Nativity which date back to the medieval Mystery plays and still come to life at Christmas-time in Quebec and France. They depict, often in picturesque detail and without the least concern for authenticity, the customs of the time and the various events connected with the Nativity story. The language is colorful and humorous, displaying a peasant-like frankness and hearty earthiness. . . . Many of the Noëls are based on pre-existing tunes, general secular in nature. . . . Some Noëls are set with different words in the various regions; others, such as Venez, mes enfants, an Alsatian Noël, are typically regional.”
Composer Donald Patriquin was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal and from the University of Toronto. He was for many years a member of the music faculty at McGill, and now freelances in Quebec.
“Venez, mes enfants”
Venez, mes enfants, accourez, venez tous: Merveilles divines se passant chez nous.
Voyez dans las Crèche l’Enfant nouveauné que dans la nuit fraiche Dieu nous a donné.
Une pauvre étable Lui sert de maison ni chaise ni table rien que paille et son.
Une humble chandelle suffit à l’Enfant que le monde appelle Le Dieu Tout-Puissant.
On n’a vu personne monter au clocher, mais la cloche sonne pour le nouveauné.
L’oiseau sur sa branche s’est mis à chanter. L’oeil de la pervenche s’en est éveillé.
Bergers et bergéres portent leurs presents. “Dodo, petit frère,” chantent les enfants.
Mille anges folâtrent dans un rayon d’or: Les Mages se hâtent vers Jésus qui dort.
(Used by permission, earthsongs, copyright 1992)
Come, my children, hasten, come all: Marvelous divine things are happening among us.
See in the Cradle the new born Child whom fresh this night God has given us.
A poor stable serves as His home: no chair or table, nothing but straw and hay.
A humble candle suffices for the Child whom the world calls the God All-Mighty.
No one has seen anyone climbing the tower, but the bell is sounding for the newborn Child.
The bird on its branch starts to sing. The eye-bud of the periwinkle itself is awakened.
Shepherds and shepherdesses bring their gifts. “Sleep, little brother,” sing the children.
A thousand angels frolic in a ray of golden light: The Magi hurry themselves toward Jesus, who sleeps.
“Quelle est cette odeur agréable?”
Quelle est cette odeur agréable, Bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?
S’exhale t’il rien de semblable? Au milieu des fleurs du printemps?
Mais quelle éclatante lumière dans las nuit vient frapper nos yeux!
L’astre du jour, dans sa carrière, futil jamais si radieux?
Ne craignez rien, peuple fidèle, ecoutez l’ange du Seigneur.
Il vous annonce une nouvelle qui va vous combler de bonheur.
A Bethléhem dans une crèche il vient de vous naître un Saveur;
Allons, que riens ne vous empêche d’adorer votre Rédempteur.
Dieu tout puissant, gloire éternelle Vous soit rendue jusqu’aux cieux:
Qui la paix soit universelle, que la grâce abonde en tous lieux.
(Used by permission, earthsongs, copyright 1992)
What is this lovely fragrance, shepherds, that ravishes your senses?
Is there anything that breathes like this amid the flowers of spring?
But what is this light that shines so brightly in the night before our eyes!
Star of the day whose course was never so radiant!
Fear nothing, faithful people! Hear the angel of the Lord.
He announces to you great news that will fill you with joy.
In Bethlehem in a manger is born to you a Savior;
Go, let nothing hinder you from adoring your Redeemer.
God of all power, may eternal glory be given You without ceasing:
That peace may be universal, that grace may abound in all places!
Gloria in Excelsis Deo Kevin A. Memley
Having sung rapidly emerging young composer Kevin Memley’s Autumn on its recent October concert, GCA now turns to a contrasting work, Memley’s setting of the familiar church hymn Gloria in Excelsis Deo, which begins with the angels’ Nativity tidings to the shepherds (Luke 2:14) and adds other traditional ancient hymns of praise and prayers for mercy. The Gloria became part of the Mass (on Sundays and feast days) by the early sixth century and remains part of the service of Morning Prayer in many Christian denominations even today.
Those who have heard John Rutter’s Gloria (including three performances by GCA) will recognize the influence of that work on Memley’s setting, in its rhythmic drive alternating with lush lyricism.
Gloria in excelsis deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram patris miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus. Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen. (Used by permission of Pavane Publishing.)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you. We bless you. We worship you. We glorify you.
We give thanks to you for your great glory.
Lord God, Heavenly King, God Almighty Father.
Lord Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
You who take away the sins of the world, hear our prayer.
You who sit at the Father’s right hand, have mercy on us.
For you alone are holy. You alone, Lord. You alone the Most High, Jesus Christ.
With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Wexford Carol Arr. Amy Tate Williams
This traditional song–one of the oldest of all Christmas carols–originated in County Wexford, Ireland, in the 12th century. It gained widespread popularity when published in the Oxford Book of Carols by William Grattan Flood (1859-1928).
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep:
To whom God’s angels did appear, which caused the shepherds to hide in fear.
“Prepare and go,” the angels said, “to Bethlehem, and be not afraid;
For there you will find, this happy morn, a princely babe, sweet Jesus born.”
With thankful heart and joyful mind, the shepherds hurried the babe to find.
And as God’s angel had foretold, they did Christ Jesus our Lord behold.
Within a manger He was laid and by His side the virgin maid attending
On the Lord of life Who came on earth to end all strife.
Good people all this Christmas-time consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done in sending His beloved Son,
With Mary holy we should pray to God with love this Christmas Day:
In Bethlehem upon that morn the world was changed forevermore.
Messiah King of Kings was born!
Arranger Amy Tate Williams serves as Chorus Master and Accompanist for Nashville Opera, as well as Opera Director for the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Western Kentucky University and master’s degrees in Piano Performance and Piano Accompanying from Florida State University.
Valerie Clark Gill is a founding member of Griffin Choral Arts and is a regular soloist with the ensemble, including performances of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, Brahms’ Requiem, John Rutter’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Poulenc’s Gloria. She is also a regular soloist for the Chancel Choir at Griffin First United Methodist Church, where she has sung solos for many major works, including the Saint Saëns Christmas Oratorio, theFaure Requiem, and The Seven Last Words of Christ by Theodore DuBois. She completed her B.M. degree at Clayton State University. She has studied with voice faulty from Gordon College, Clayton State University, Florida State University. Currently she studies voice with Sandra Lutters of Atlanta.
We are especially grateful that she will sing a benefit concert for GCA on February 27, at Griffin First United Methodist Church.
The Hills Are Bare at Bethlehem Arr. Ralph M. Johnson
This beautifully spare anthem is based on the folk hymn tune Prospect, found in the Southern Harmony and Musical Companion songbook compiled by William Walker, known as “Singing Billy” and a leader in the collecting and popularizing of songs in the Sacred Harp or shape-note tradition in early American music.
Arranger Ralph Johnson earned his bachelor of music in composition and theory at St. Olaf College and his master’s degree in the same field from the University of Minnesota. His choral works have been sung by many notable choirs, including those at St. Olaf College and the Westminster Choir College. He currently serves as director of worship and music at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis.
The text is by Lutheran pastor Royce J. Scherf (b. 1929).
The hills are bare at Bethlehem, no future for the world they show;
Yet here new life begins to grow, from earth’s old dust a greenwood stem.
The stars are cold at Bethlehem, no warmth for those beneath the sky;
Yet here the radiant angels fly, and joy burns new, a fi’ry gem.
The heart is tired at Bethlehem, no human dream unbroken stands;
Yet here God comes to mortal hands, and hope renewed cries out: “Amen!”
(Used by permission, earthsongs, copyright 1995)
En El Portal a Belén (In the Stable at Bethlehem) Arr. Ed Henderson, b. 1952
This charming and homespun traditional Puerto Rican carol is arranged by Ed Henderson, described in the choral score as “one of Canada’s finest music directors for theatrical productions, having won acclaim and awards across the country. He is also a recognized producer of world music recordings and has produced, among others, the award-winning CDs ‘El Camino Real’ for Ancient Cultures and ‘Endless’ for Silk Road.”
Ha nacio en el portal llenito de telaranas, entre la mula y el buey, El Redentor de las almas.
(Refrain): Este es un lerum, la maruxina, este es un lerum, en al portal;
vaya prosigo este cantar. Lerum, lerum, lerum, la!
En el portal de Belén hay estrella, sol y luna, La Virgen y San José y el Niño que está en la cuna. (Refrain)
Entro al portal un gallego que vengo desde Galicia y le traigo al Niño Dios lienza para una camisa. (Refrain)
Entro un Gitano al portal de Granada vengo a aqui y le traigo al Niño Dios un gallo quiquiriqui. (Refrain)
(Used by permission, earthsongs, copyright 2000)
In a stable full of cobwebs, between a mule and an ox, the Redeemer of our souls was born.
Refrain: Singing “Lerum, lerum,” [a lullaby word] is the dear Mary, singing “lerum, lerum,” out in the stable:
Let’s all join in and sing this song: “Lerum, lerum, lerum, la!”
In the Bethlehem stall shines a star, the sun, and the moon; the Virgin and Saint Joseph and the Child who
sleeps in the hay. (Refrain)
A Spaniard enters the stable: “I come from Galicia to bring the Holy Child fine linen for a shirt.” (Refrain)
A gypsy enters the stable: “I come from Granada to bring the Holy Child a proud rooster—cock-a-doodle-doo!”
Go, Tell About This Wonderful Child – an Audience Carol Sing-Along (see page )
This medley is somewhat unusual in having a narrative “flow”: from a question to an answer to that question, and finally to an exhortation to put that answer into action. The three carols are “What Child Is This?” “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child!” and “Go, Tell It on the Mountain!” from (in order) the late-medieval English and African-American spiritual traditions.
This arrangement for brass, timpani, and organ is by GCA singer Bill Pasch, who has written similar arrangements for festival worship services of the Southeastern Synod of the Lutheran Church—ELCA and for Griffin First United Methodist Church. Last year’s “Christmas with Griffin Choral Arts” included his Carol of the Hen, using oboe and percussion, subsequently published by St. James Music Press, in whose catalog (along with that of Augsburg Fortress) his other choral anthems appear. A retired English professor (emeritus) at Clayton State, he is also a lifelong church musician, currently serving as organist at First Presbyterian Church in Peachtree City.
“Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (from Christmas Cantata) Daniel Pinkham, 1923-2006
The text of the Gloria section of the Pinkham Christmas Cantata consists of the repetition of the opening line of the same text used by Memley Gloria in Excelsis Deo (above) interspersed with verses from the Latin text of Psalm 100 (known as the Jubilate Deo), as follows (in translation):
Verse I: Rejoice in the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness.
Verse II: Come into His presence exulting!
Verse III: Know that the Lord Himself is God: He Himself made us, and not we ourselves.
These verses will be recognizable in being sung by smaller sub-choirs within the chorus. GCA first performed the full Christmas Cantata at its December concert in 2008.
Daniel Pinkham was a versatile composer whose extensive catalog includes four symphonies among a variety of works for solo instruments up to large ensembles, as well as scores for television documentaries. His education at Phillips Academy and Harvard included study with Walter Piston and Aaron Copland. He also studied harpsichord with Wanda Landowska, and organ with E. Power Biggs. At Tanglewood he studied composition with Arthur Honegger and Samuel Barber, and later with Nadia Boulanger. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he held teaching positions at Simmons College, Boston University, Harvard, and the New England Conservatory of Music. He was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Fellowship.
Creation Will Be at Peace Anna Laura Page, b. 1943
This hope-inspiring text about the Peaceable Kingdom is adapted from Isaiah 11:6-9 by ASCAP composer J. Paul Williams (1937-2010).
In the holy mountain of the Lord all war and strife will cease;
In the holy mountain of the Lord creation will be at peace.
The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the cow and bear will feed,
Their young will play together; a little child will lead.
The leopard and the goat will graze, the lion will feed on straw.
They will war no more; a child will lead them all.
(Copyright © 1992 by Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
Creation Will Be at Peace had real-life resonance in being dedicated by the composer to the sister of Terry Anderson, a hostage held by Hezbollah in Lebanon from 1985-1991.
Composer Anna Laura Page earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Music Education with a concentration in piano and a Master of Music in Music Theory with a concentration in organ from the University of Kentucky. She had served as an organ instructor at Mercer University in Macon, and was a member of the Music Committee of the Southern Baptist 1991 Hymnal Committee. A prolific composer and arranger of church music, she currently serves as Handbell Editor for Alfred Music Company.
Special thanks to four guest dancers from the Griffin Ballet Theatre, who will be joining with Griffin Choral Arts to stage A Mother’s Tears, a world-premiere ballet version of Karl Jenkins’s Stabat Mater in two performances, on March 28 and 29, 2014, at the Griffin Auditorium.
Peace, Peace Rick and Sylvia Powell, arr. Fred Bock
This popular “closer” at yuletide concerts was composed in 1962 by Rick Powell (1935-2006) and Sylvia Powell (b. 1937) when they were students at Florida State University. Also an FSU alum, GCA director Dr. Steve Mulder has either sung or conducted this choral benediction on every Christmas concert (whether as a student or conductor in church, school/college or community chorus) since 1982.
Program notes and translations by Bill Pasch © 2013, except where otherwise acknowledged.
Works are performed under blanket license by ASCAP and BMI.