Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 33 - 13 of My Favorite Christmas Choral Pieces

I've been in choirs since I was a girl. I sang in my elementary school concerts, and for a short time my church choir (my church was very basic and didn't really have an official choir, just the congregation singing, mostly - but for a few years we had someone in our parish who was musically inclined and she started a youth choir for awhile.)

In high school I was extremely lucky to have a fantastic choir director, Jim Farmer who really whipped us into fighting shape! My life really took off when I joined that choir, the Prince Andrew Chorus. It turned my high school years into a version of 'Fame', the arts high school film & TV drama.

After high school I joined my mom's choir, the Dartmouth Choral Society, where she and my Aunt Noel sang every Christmas and my sister and I used to hand out the programs. When I moved to Toronto I wasn't in any choir for about four years while I adjusted to living away from home in a big city. I can't tell you how much I missed singing during those years. When you're a choir person, the seasons of your life are marked by Christmas concerts and spring concerts.

As soon as I started university I joined the choir there, Oakham House Choir. I was lucky again with another fabulous choir director who really showed me how to lead a group of people just as I was studying to be a filmmaker. We did full pieces like Mozart's 'Requiem' and Carl Orf's 'Carmina Burana', which was dream-come-true stuff for me. When I moved to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1999 to help take care of my gram, I joined my mom's choir once again, the Yarmouth Community Chorale. What an exceptional group of voices in that small town choir! Especially the men, which often are outnumbered by women in choirs.

In 2001 we moved back to Dartmouth (YAY!) and for a second time I joined the Dartmouth Choral Society. We just had our Christmas concert last night. The early music ensemble accompanying us was just fantastic. My choir director is at the far left, playing the harpsicord. I'm second from the left, just peeking out in the second row.

Fall and winter are completely tied to learning and singing Christmas programs with my choir. It makes me feel so connected to the people I sing with, the audience, the orchestra, the composer and to the Creator. There's nothing more spiritually connecting for me than when I'm a part of beautiful music and all is harmonious. Sometimes it's so beautiful my eyes fill with tears and I can't actually sing. That's when I'm glad I'm in a choir and not singing by myself!

Here are some of my favorite pieces I've sung over the years. Enjoy!

1 - O Come O Come Emmanuel by Boyz II Men

I've always loved this one, from childhood. I like the longing present in the melody.

2 - Gabriel's Message sung by The Choir of Winchester Cathedral

As you can tell, I'm a big fan of the old Renaissance carols.

'The Annunciation to Mary' by Keith Newton

3 - Magnificat by Pergolesi

This is one of the pieces we performed last night. The Magnificat is the prayer offered by Mary upon learning her blessed role from the angel Gabriel. 'Magnificat' means 'my soul doth magnify the Lord.'

The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

4 - The Cherry Tree Carol

A no-show on YouTube. All I can offer is some trial audio of the first verse. For the lyrics, click here. I sang this one last year and was struck by the relationship dynamics in this carol between Joseph and Mary. I also LOVE it when the cherry tree bows down so Mary can have her cherries.

'The Cherry Tree' by Emile Munier

5 - The Wexford Carol sung by the Celtic Women

I haven't sung this one yet in concert, but my current choir director is part of an early music ensemble, so maybe one day...

6 - Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day sung by Libera

How can I not be enamoured of a carol about dancing? And I always enjoy the line 'this have I done for my true love.'

7 - Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine 15th century traditional German carol

I couldn't find a version of it on YouTube, so feel free to sing along. I always like the sense of an actual family I get from this carol, where Mary asks Joseph to 'help cradle the child divine'.

'Holy Family With Palm Tree' by Raphael

8 - The Holly and The Ivy sung by the King´s College Chapel Boys Choir

I just LOVE this one. It goes through my head a lot in the winter when I'm walking my dog in the woods.

9 - I Saw Three Ships

Another of my lifelong faves. Maybe being from a harbor city does it...

Statue in the church at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France

10 - Adoramus Te
(We adore you, O Christ)

I sang this acapella with my high school choir, both in concert and when we went carolling from house to house in the snowy cold. People actually stood in their doorways and listened even though it was freezing, and passed around boxes of chocolates to us. Ah, those were the days.

11 - Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) by Vivaldi

I sang this one with my university choir, also with orchestra and I listen to it often on CD. One of my ABSOLUTE favorites.

Map of the Milky Way

12 - Hallelujah Chorus by Handel
Even loading it onto my blog, I got teary. I've sung this one several times, but truthfully I get too choked up once we get to the 'and he shall reign' part. I often get shivery and teary and can't continue into the 'King of Kings' part - this piece of music sums up my feelings about God so perfectly I can't contain the huge emotion it evokes in me. So there you have a window into my soul.

Photo of snail shell by Darlyne A. Murawski

13 - Carol of The Bells sung by the Ben Davis show choirs

I like the mysterious undercurrent to this one.

Hope you enjoyed the program!


Dont make me get out my flying Monkeys! said...

Great Thursday Post! Come on over and take a sip off my blog before its all gone!

Christine d'Abo said...

I love Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel and Oh Holy Night. I get chills everytime I hear them. Fantastic list!

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Annie Mac said...

Julia, your post brought back happy memories of when I was in the choir as a kid. Midnight Mass was always such a big part of Christmas. Never thought of joining a choir as an adult.

Tempest Knight said...

That piece from Handel always puts me in the mood for Yuletide. *wg*

Darla said...

Oh, Carol of the Bells is my favorite. I can listen to that over and over.

Annette said...

Good for you, Julia! I used to sing in my church choir, but stopped when I left home after high school.

My favourite is Schubert's Ave Maria. Love it so much I walked down the aisle to it, even though I got married in May. O Holy Night is a close second.

Sassy Lucy said...

A very beautiful list, Carol of the Bells is so beautiful. I always loved listening to Madrigal Singers at this time of the year
Hope you'll visit my also holiday themed list this week.

Karina said...

Julia this was such a beautiful post. I read it while listening to the Boyz II Men song, and plan on sticking around to hear the rest. I love listening to choirs, and always wished I could sing well enough to be a part of one. And like you, Christmas Chorals can quite often bring me to tears, there's just something so powerful in them.

And the images you selected to go with these? Perfect!!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Whoa. I only know Gloria and, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus. Can ya tell this isn't my area of expertise?

Classical music rocks, though, no matter what holiday it's attached to. I have always had a genuine love for it.

Ann said...

Great list, I love the Carol of the Bells. Sting did a version of Gabrielle's Song for a Very Special Christmas album (I think). Happy TT.

Akelamalu said...

Lovely post Julia.

I've posted the second Christmas Carol Quiz today - you should be really good at it! ;)

Carrie Lofty said...

Have you heard Sting's version of "Gabriel's Message?" It's on YouTube, lovely stuff.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

11 and 12 are my favorites. Excellent list. Have a great TT. :)

Sniz said...

I Love, love, love choir Christmas classic music. Each one of the pieces you listed was better than he one before, but I think the Halleluia Chorus is my favorite!

Toni said...

Oh goodness, what a beautiful post, Julia. Oh Holy Night has got to be my favorite, but I love sooo many.

Robin said...

The only one of the pieces I know is the Handel. I'll have to listen to some of the others. I'm sure they're beautiful.

shelleyr said...

Adoramus Te!! Yaahhh!!

julia said...

Shelley R! LOL!!!

Isabella Snow said...

I love number 11! Very interesting list, I've not heard of most of them. My faves are It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and White Christmas. :)

Jenny McB said...

What a great post with music included. I sang in High school and loved the feeling of creating and sharing. We too had great teachers.

My oldest did chorus for two years in high school and their chorus was excellent. Always a goosebump experience at Christmas.

How great that you continued as an adult, if only I had the time.
Have you ever done Faure Requiem? What an unforgettable experience that was.

julia said...

Jenny - I haven't done that one. I'll have to look it up.

No Nonsense Girl said...

makes me wanna listen to a choir.. :)

Camille Alexa said...

Dude! Totally getting me into the Christmas spirit.

I tear up when I hear a truly great rendition of "Ave Maria".

Robin said...

Hi Julia. I just wanted to let you know that I posted your interview questions in the comments of my own interview post. Have fun with them.

julia said...

Thanks Robin! I'll get to them this week.

Amy Ruttan said...

Wonderful songs. I love Oh Holy Night and the Holy and the Ivy.