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Ola Gjeilo,

  • Behold a New Joy! Behold a New Wonder!

    Behold, a new joy,
    Behold, a new wonder!

    So begins the English translation of Ola Gjeilo's Ecce Novum. This hauntingly beautiful piece is just one of several that the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is preparing to sing in our upcoming Christmas concerts, Wintersong 2018. This work for chorus, piano, and strings shimmers with the wide-eyed wonder of the Incarnation that is Christmas. And it's just one of many other pieces you'll hear. Here are just a few more to whet your appetite:

    O Little Town of Bethlehem is set by Dan Forrest (recall Dan's wonderful See Amid the Winter's Snowsung by the Chorale in a recent Wintersong concert). O Little Town of Bethlehem features the choir, piano, strings, and—of all things—a soprano saxophone!

    Rejoice and Sing! by John Rutter. You'll need to be able to count to seven for this one! That's right—it's I Saw Three Ships in 7/8 time!

    Sussex Carol in a setting by Elaine Hagenberg. Elaine is a young composer who is writing some absolutely beautiful music! We'll also sing her setting of All Praise to Thee, with  text from Martin Luther.

    O Come All Ye Faithful. But wait a minute! Not exactly as you may be thinking of it! This is a rollicking setting by Jacob Narverud of the Pentatonix version of this favorite Christmas music.

    Sound like Christmas? It does to me! It's not too early to get one of our concerts on your calendar! We'll present two concerts, each featuring the Chorale, the Ensemble under the direction of Mac Willaert, the pipe organ, and strings. And as always, you'll be singing along too in several carols of Christmas.

    So . . . mark your calendar for Friday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m. or Saturday, December 1 at 3:00 p.m. Our concerts, as always, are at College Church, corner of Washington and Seminary in Wheaton. Watch this website for ticket availability and other information pertaining to the Chorale.

    We hope to see you in our audience this Christmas!

    Greg

  • It's the Most... BEAUTIFUL Time of the Year!

    We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows,
    even that is bounty enough.
    We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united
    with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves,
    to bathe in it, to become part of it.

    — C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory

    This may seem at first like a strange quote with which to begin a blog about Christmas music! But as I sit thinking about some of the beautiful music being prepared by the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale for Wintersong, I think it may be rather relevant after all.

    Christmas has long been my favorite season of the year. One of the reasons for this, I think, is the great beauty it brings. Think of it—what could be more beautiful than God stooping to become one of us? Here is a Love that is beyond understanding—a Love that has moved artists and musicians through the years to create some of the most beautiful works imaginable. From Handel's Messiah to Bach's Magnificat, artists have found in the Incarnation inspiration to create works that literally soar to the heights.

    As the Chorale prepares for our Wintersong 2018 concerts, we're anticipating sharing the joy of this music with you! In this post I'd like to share just two of the pieces on our concert that have made it to the top of my "Beautiful Music" list.

    First, there is Ecce Novum, by Ola Gjeilo. The framework for this piece is really quite simple: it moves through several keys, but the harmonies remain basic. And so, it is a bit difficult to describe just why this piece is so moving. The Latin text paints the picture of Jesus' birth, and perhaps it is the simplicity of the music matching the bare simplicity of a birth in a manger that moves us. Gjeilo has given the piano the role of a straightforward accompaniment, and the strings whispering above it are marvelous.

    The second piece I want to mention here is All Praise to Thee by Elaine Hagenberg. The Chorale is singing two of Hagenberg's pieces on these concerts, and this will be the first time that the music of this young composer has been sung by the Chorale. Once again, this piece is not complex, but has melodies and harmonies that are easily accessible. It too brings together the piano and strings for a striking and beautiful accompaniment. The text is by Martin Luther:

    All praise to Thee, eternal God,
    Who, clothed in garb of flesh and blood,
    Dost take a manger for Thy throne,
    While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.

    And then, what I think is one of the most beautiful features of this piece, a refrain that recurs throughout, consisting of a single, beautiful word: Alleluia. This Alleluia is first sung quietly, but gains intensity, and in the final moments of the piece, is sung with rapturous joy!

    I am looking forward to sharing this beauty with you! And these are just two of many more pieces that I think you will find bring you great joy this Christmas season.

    In addition to the full Chorale, Wintersong 2018 features the Ensemble, directed by Mac Willaert (who also serves as the Chorale's accompanist), the College Church pipe organ played by Daniel Mattix, and our wonderful string ensemble. In addition, saxophonist Howard Whitaker will join the Chorale for two selections. I certainly hope you'll put the dates on your calendar and order your tickets by visiting our Tickets page. I think you'll find Wintersong to be a wonderful way to begin your Christmas season!

    Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale
    Wintersong 2018
    Friday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 1 at 3:00 p.m.
    College Church in Wheaton

  • Spotless Rose

    As we continue to look at some of the pieces in the Chorale's upcoming Christmas concerts, our Ensemble director and accompanist Mac Willaert talks about one of his favorites—Spotless Rose by Ola Gjeilo.

    My mother had a red rose bloom on Christmas Day when I was a teenager. Exciting for her. Beautiful for the rest of the family.

    In the midst of my second year with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, it seemed fitting that I make my big "Director's Notes" debut! We'll give Mr. Greg Wheatley a week off as we take a look at one of the Ensemble's pieces for the season, a gorgeous a capella choral piece titled Spotless Rose.

    When I first took the position of director of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale Ensemble, one of my very first tasks was to begin assembling the Ensemble's program for Wintersong 2016.It took me no time at all to make my first selection; I have always been thoroughly moved by Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, perhaps my favorite traditional Christmas carol, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to bring an arrangement to life with my new group of talented singers. In fact, we even used it as their audition piece for the Ensemble! Needless to say, we crafted and tuned that piece over the course of months until it was prepared as a truly beautiful moment in the midst of a spectacular concert.

    For this season, I wanted to branch out and perhaps include some arrangements and pieces I was wholly unfamiliar with. I stumbled upon Spotless Rose,written by Ola Gjeilo. Having been familiar with Gjeilo's work and highly admiring it, I gave it a listen and was immediately certain that we must take a stab at it. The piece was in Norwegian, Gjeilo's native language, but came with English language text as well, so there was no hesitation to lock in this brand-new, exciting piece, certainly unlike anything we'd done before with the Ensemble. Then, of course, I took a look at the translated text to see what the core of the piece was all about:

    A Spotless Rose is growing, sprung from a tender root,

    Of ancient seers' foreshowing, of Jesse promised fruit;

    Its fairest bud unfolds to light amid the cold, cold winter

    And in the dark midnight.

    The Rose which I am singing, whereof Isaiah said,

    Is from its sweet root springing in Mary, purest Maid;

    Through God's great love and might, the Blessed Babe she bare us

    In a cold, cold winter's night.

    Those of you familiar with Lo, How a Rose E'er Bloomingare permitted a chuckle at my expense; in my quest to find something new, daring, and drastically different, I had stumbled on a different arrangement of what is essentially the same, classic text from Lo, How a Rose. A cruel twist of fate indeed. But, alas, one does not look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when the gift horse is presenting such a beautiful piece of choral music. The tune and the setting will be wholly unfamiliar, even to those who love the classic carol as much as myself, but I suppose we will simply have to make it an annual tradition to incorporate it in one form or another! I do hope our singers and our audience enjoy the richness in this expressive, moving setting of a truly classic Christmas text.

    We are very excited to be bringing Wintersong 2017: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale to College Church in Wheaton, IL on Friday, December 1 and Saturday, December 2. Ticket information is available on this page, and we look forward to bringing you a concert of Christmas cheer!