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Director's Notes

Greg Wheatley, Musical Director of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, shares his thoughts about past and future concerts, musical works we've performed, and the many joys of choral music.

A Musical Moment from WINTERSONG 2018

One of the thrills of being the guy who gets to stand in front of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is hearing a piece of music come to life. Weeks of rehearsal pay off as a piece that was once brand new becomes an old friend.

There is another moment of joy when we get together for the first time with our orchestral friends. This fine group of players raises everything to a new level. What was already a beautiful piece of music now shimmers with the added sounds of musicians—strings, percussion, organ—all of whom are highly skilled in what they do.

Let me share just one of those moments with you. My friend and colleague Howard Whitaker lends his saxophone artistry for two pieces in our upcoming Christmas concerts. One of those pieces is Dan Forrest's memorable setting of O Little Town of Bethlehem. I'm fairly certain that you've never heard this familiar carol set quite this way! Forrest's imaginative harmonies are brought to life by the Chorale, Mac Willaert's piano accompaniment, the strings, and Howard Whitaker with a very soulful soprano saxophone.

I hope you'll take a moment and listen to the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, along with piano, strings, and saxophone, as we sing this wonderful music. Then, may I invite you to get your tickets now for Wintersong 2018? There's lots more where this came from!

Greg Wheatley, Musical Director
Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale

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

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 Snow sung 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

LOVE IS IN THE AIR... and There's Lots of Music!

Stack of music with flyer

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think the photo you see here says it all! For the singers in the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, and for us who are directors, accompanists, and instrumentalists, this stack of music represents the many hours of rehearsal that have gone into preparing for our spring concert LOVE IS IN THE AIR. And yes . . . every piece you see in this picture will be heard in our concert—and actually a few more not pictured here that will be sung by our smaller Ensemble.

See anything you like? We think there's something for just about everyone in this concert! Let me give you a brief tour of some of the highlights:

Starting at the top left of the photo, it's George Gershwin's classic Love Is Here to Stay. Vintage 1930s jazz in a nice arrangement by Mark Hayes. That blue cover that's hiding just to the right of the Gershwin piece is a beautiful setting of the W.B. Yeats poem Down by the Sally Gardens. It's for the men of the Chorale, accompanied by piano and clarinet. And speaking of the poetry of Yeats . . . bottom center is René Clausen's The Cloths of Heaven, commissioned and debuted by the GEWC two years ago.

Two pieces by Z. Randall Stroope represent some of the most beautiful choral writing in this concert. Song to the Moon is a setting for choir, piano, flute, and oboe. It evokes images of a lonely man or woman, asking the moon to go and tell their beloved of their true feelings. Go Lovely Rose sets the Edmund Waller poem that also seems to be speaking to an inanimate object—this time a rose—but is really aimed at the beloved.

Moving a bit to the popular side of the program, you'll find titles such as Rainy Days and Mondays, the Beatles' classics Michelle, Yesterday, and Can't Buy Me Love (sung by the Ensemble). If you remember Elvis Presley crooning Can't Help Falling in Love, I think you'll enjoy the Chorale's rendition of that early 1960s hit.

And as they say . . . "Wait! There's more!" But you'll have to hear it for yourself! Why not join us for an enjoyable afternoon or evening of love songs? Two concerts to choose from: Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., or Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton (corner of Washington and Seminary). Tickets are available online. Just look for the info on this page and click on the banner.

We'd love to have you in our audience!

Greg Wheatley
Music Director
Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale

LOVE IS IN THE AIR: An Adventure in Eclecticism

ECLECTIC: Selecting what seems best of various styles or ideas (Vocabulary.com)

Eclectic could well describe the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's spring concert LOVE IS IN THE AIR. Let's just take a look at some of the wide-ranging musical selections you'll hear at this concert:

The Cloths of Heaven—the Chorale's 2016 commission by composer René Clausen. This beautiful composition for choir and piano features Romantic harmonies, with a sweeping piano accompaniment, and sets the text of W.B. Yeats. You can view the Chorale singing this piece in its debut performance.

Love Is Here to Stay—this Gershwin classic is given life by arranger Mark Hayes. You may know this song from the 1938 film The Goldwyn Follies.

Yesterday—the classic from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arranged for a capella choir by Bob Chilcott.

Rainy Days and Mondays—directly from the Carpenters to you . . . by way of the arrangement of the late Steve Zegree.

And then, to that eclectic mix of titles, add this: an intentional juxtaposition of two eras in one piece of music! Jazz pianist George Shearing has set the Shakespeare text Live with Me and Be My Love in a wonderful jazz setting for choir, piano, and string bass.

So . . . safe to say that you're almost guaranteed to find something that will catch your fancy!

In addition to our regular accompanist Mac Willaert, the Chorale will be joined by three talented instrumentalists who will bring their expertise to bear in this concert. Jeff Padgett and Marissa Webb will join on oboe and flute in the hauntingly beautiful Song to the Moon by Z. Randall Stroope. And throughout the concert, Hannah Novak plays string bass on some of those jazz pieces.

The Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale presents LOVE IS IN THE AIR twice—Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. That weekend happens to be Mother's Day weekend. Why not make one of these concerts a gift for that special person? Tickets are available online by clicking the banner on this page.

The entire Chorale joins me in hoping that we'll see you there!

Eric Whitacre's "A Boy and a Girl"

For this blog, I hand the pen to my colleague Mac Willaert. Mac is the very capable director of the Chorale's Ensemble. In this blog, Mac talks about his favorite selection from the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's upcoming concert, LOVE IS IN THE AIR.


One of the most truly human experiences in our brief lifetimes on this earth is grappling with our own mortality. That may seem a grim opening to a Director's Note for a concert entitled LOVE IS IN THE AIR, but with that pain and sadness also comes great beauty and love—after all, if our time on this earth was not limited, would we be so inclined to say how we feel, to take that chance, to reach towards that which we long for? Our fleeting time imbues us with the urgency that lies at the foundation of almost every beautiful moment, and it is that essence which lies at the heart of one of my all-time favorite choral pieces, A Boy and a Girl.

Any choral aficionados, or even past guests of the Chorale, will recognize the name of Eric Whitacre, who is certainly among the most popular current composers, if not the most popular current composer. In this particular piece, Whitacre takes a gorgeous, haunting poem by Octavio Paz and sets it to one of his finest customary blends of painful dissonances and soul-stirring resolutions. As a composer, this is quite frequently his weapon of choice (to the point where he is even known to poke fun at himself for it): he creates textures so layered that they almost form a wave of sound designed specifically to tug at your heartstrings, only to keep you yearning until the last moment for the voices to resolve in an outpouring of musical emotion. Working with a text like this, it is easy to see why Whitacre felt his particular brand was a fit:

Stretched out on the grass
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their oranges,
giving their kisses like waves exchanging foam.

Stretched out on the beach,
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their limes,
giving their kisses like clouds exchanging foam.

Stretched out underground,
a boy and a girl.
Saying nothing, never kissing,
giving silence for silence.

Whitacre's unique ability to channel emotion through music is put to particular effect as he takes us on the journey of this couple, from their first date to their final resting place, side by side. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and yet vastly moving to know this nameless couple's time has come and gone, and yet they are side by side for eternity. That is love, and that is, to me, the human essence; to know our time is fleeting, and in spite of that, to live and love as fiercely as we can. Whitacre himself said:

I'm often asked which of my compositions is my favorite. I don't really have one that I love more than the others, but I do feel that the four measures that musically paint the text "never kissing" may be the truest notes I've ever written.

I am hard pressed to disagree.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR will be performed twice: Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. Please click on the banner on this page for more information.

Song to the Moon

What is it about the moon? This mysterious light in our night sky has fascinated us as long ago as history has been recorded. It's been the object of everything from poetry to scientific exploration. Sometimes we like to attribute human characteristics to the moon. Remember this little verse from your childhood?

I see the moon and the moon sees me.
God bless the moon and God bless me.

Before you wonder what this blog is all about . . . no, the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale hasn't turned into an astronomy club! And yes . . . we're still rehearsing a concert of love songs—LOVE IS IN THE AIR. But I do want to tell you about one of those love songs, and it has a lot to do with the moon.

Z. Randall Stroope has written an exquisite piece that sets the text of little-known Czech poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868-1950). This text was actually incorporated into Antonin Dvorak's opera Rusalka. Stroope—whose name you may remember from the Chorale's Christmas concerts as the composer of This Endris Night—has paraphrased Kvapil's text:

La luna, your light sees through endless time,
Tell, O tell me, where my love lies.
O moon, e'er you pass, wake my dreaming lover.
I am waiting, I am calling.
Tell him come. Tell him, O moon.
Moon, help him. Help him remember and dream of me.
Tell him, O tell him who is waiting, who is longing!
I am waiting, longing!
Tell him come. Tell him, O moon.

The setting of this poem is Stroope at his finest. To the choir and piano, he has added the longing sounds of flute and oboe. He adds to this the recurring phrase la luna, set to musical intervals that cause the listener to feel the sadness of a missing love.

Without doubt, Song to the Moon is one of the more challenging pieces to prepare. But the challenge is one that pays off in an evocative setting of a beautiful text. We think you'll agree!

Song to the Moon is just one of many selections you'll be treated to when you attend one of the Chorale's LOVE IS IN THE AIR concerts. And there's some lighter fare as well! Songs like Rainy Days and Mondays, Love Is Here to Stay, and others.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR will be performed twice: Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. Please click on the banner on this page for more information.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

Live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
And all the craggy mountains yields.
— William Shakespeare (?)

Go, lovely rose—
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
— Edmund Waller

Michelle, ma belle, sont des mots qui vout très bien ensemble.
— John Lennon

Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.
— Charlie Brown

Ah love! From the bard Shakespeare himself to the likes of the hapless Charlie Brown, love has been the theme of countless poems, stories, and songs down through the ages. And this spring, the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale puts love front and center in our concert LOVE IS IN THE AIR.

Actually, three of the four texts with which I began this post are included in the Chorale's concert. (Guess which one didn't get a musical setting? Sorry, Charlie!) I'm excited about the wide variety of music you'll hear in this concert. Let me give you an overview, and then in coming weeks, stay tuned as Ensemble director Mac Willaert and I talk in greater detail about specific selections.

If you were in our audience for Wintersong 2017, you'll recognize the name Z. Randall Stroope. At Christmas we sang his setting of This Endris Night. Stroope's music is back this spring, and the Chorale is actually going to sing two of his settings. The first is his treatment of Edmund Waller's Go, Lovely Rose. The second is a hauntingly beautiful setting of Song to the Moon for chorus, piano, flute, and oboe.

Representing the more "popular" side of our concert are two arrangements of well-known Beatles tunes. These settings of Michelle and Yesterday were both made popular by the King's Singers, and I think you'll enjoy hearing them sung by the Chorale.

Are you more of a 30s and 40s aficionado? There's something for you too! How about these titles: It's Only a Paper Moon, Love Is Here to Stay, and Stormy Weather? Oh, and speaking of weather . . . the Chorale also takes a run at the Carpenters' hit song Rainy Days and Mondays.

There's much more on the program, and we'll have more to say about it in upcoming posts. But for now, mark your calendar for one of our two concerts: Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. or Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. And watch for more discussion right here in these blogs!

It's Christmas Concert Week

This is "the week that was." Football players have their "two-a-day" workouts, and the Chorale has its "two-a-week" rehearsals. Our normal rehearsal schedule has us together for two hours once a week—Tuesday nights. But for two weeks just prior to our concerts, we meet on two consecutive evenings—two hours each night. It's fatiguing, let's be honest. But the exhaustion gives way to the joy we feel in anticipating two wonderful concerts at the end of the week. There's nothing quite like the thrill of hearing beautiful music come together, the many voice parts finding their way into the grand mix that is choral music. Add to that the beauty of the Christmas texts and tunes, and well.....it's something I look forward to every year.

If you've been following this blog, you know that Mac Willaert and I have been giving you a sneak peek into some of the things you'll be hearing in Wintersong 2017: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. In this final post before our concerts, I thought I'd take a step back and give you a bit of an overview of our concert. I'm going to try to do that without "giving away the store." After all, we DO want you to experience the concert for yourself this weekend!

Christmas

That picture you're seeing is the beautiful sanctuary of College Church in Wheaton. It's been our singing home for something like 13 years now, and we love it! You will too! As you can see in the picture from a previous Christmas, you'll find the sanctuary decked out in Christmas colors, waiting for the sounds of the choir to fill it. And those majestic pipes in the front? Yes, those are real! And you'll hear them the very first thing as the Chorale sings Mack Wilberg's rousing setting of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Immediately after the last chord subsides, the organ crescendos again, and you are invited to join us in singing Joy to the World. That will be the first of more opportunities for you to sing favorite songs of Christmas with the Chorale.

The first half of our concert includes a rollicking arrangement of Here We Come A Caroling, a poignant setting of See Amid the Winter's Snow, and the ensemble singing Ruth Morris Gray's No Room No Room. Just before intermission, you'll be tapping your toe to Shawn Kirchner's Brightest and Best, which features Kristen LeJeune on fiddle. Yes, I said fiddle! And wow! You just have to hear it!

After a brief intermission, it's two lively settings of two familiar carols: God Rest Ye and Deck the Hall. Mac Willaert and the ensemble return to sing Ola Gjeilo's haunting Spotless Rose. Then it's time for you to sing again, with a medley of familiar carols. Eric Whitacre's Glow (originally written for Walt Disney World), Ding Dong! Merrily on High, and Fum Fum Fum lead into a fun-filled arrangement of Gloucestershire Wassail, complete with organ and percussion, with the Chorale wassailing you in surround sound!

What better way to welcome in the season of Advent and Christmas! We'd be honored to have you join us! Remember—there are two performances: Friday, December 1 at 7:30, and Saturday, December 2 at 3:00. Tickets are available through Thursday night by clicking on the ticket banner on this page. After that, they are available at the door for both Friday and Saturday concerts. And please check out our newly lowered student ticket prices! It's now more affordable to pack up those kids and bring them with you!

I hope to see you at Wintersong 2017: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale!

women GEWC

Before the Marvel of This Night

Govert_Flinck_-_Aankondiging_aan_de_herders.jpg

Before the marvel of this night
Adoring, fold your wings and bow,
Then tear the sky apart with light
And with your news the world endow.
Proclaim the birth of Christ and peace,
That fear and death and sorrow cease:
Sing peace, sing peace, sing gift of peace,
Sing peace, sing gift of peace!
                  —Jaroslav J. Vajda

I'm a bit of a news junkie—I admit it. I watch more than my weekly minimum daily requirement. What that may mean for my being an informed citizen is probably compensated for (in a not so good way) by viewing too much that is troubling. From the political wrangling that seems to dominate our national conversation, to acts of violence that can only be described as evil, the world sometimes seems to be spinning out of control.

It's against that backdrop that Jaroslav Vayda's poem becomes all the more poignant. Look at those last two lines: Sing peace, sing peace, sing gift of peace, Sing peace, sing gift of peace! He isn't content to simply ask us to "Sing peace." He insistently repeats the line five times! And along the way, listen to how those words unfold, with their softly sibilant ess sounds. The very sounds themselves seem to be a whisper of peace.

I sometimes tell the Chorale that we ought to look at the texts we sing as poetry first, before we think of it as a text set to music. Somehow when we do that, the words regain the shimmering glow that the poet meant them to have. So, in Vajda's poem, pause and feel the wonder in these words:

                                          marvel
                                          adoring
                                          tear the sky apart
(wow!)
                                          endow

I dare say that in everyday speech, you rarely use any of these words! And that's the point, isn't it? These words are reserved for this moment, to help us ponder the amazing things we are witnessing: the things that make up the marvel of this night! All of this wonder in the text is matched by the beautiful musical setting of composer Carl Schalk. Always calm (delaying anything louder than mezzo forte until the very end), Schalk's melody rises and falls with a contour that wonderfully complements the text. The music joins the text as we're invited in to this wide-eyed wonder at what God has done on this marvelous night in Bethlehem.

Perhaps my favorite phrase in this text comes in the second stanza. Still speaking to the angelic host, the poet says:

Awake the sleeping world with song,
This is the day the Lord has made.
Assemble here, celestial throng,
In royal splendor come arrayed.
Give earth a glimpse of heavenly bliss,
A teasing taste of what they miss:
Sing bliss, sing bliss, sing endless bliss,
Sing bliss, sing endless bliss!

There it is (see the bolded text)! Don't we weary people need a glimpse of heavenly bliss? Even the smallest "teasing taste" of this glory of God would be enough to make us want nothing but that!

Here is a performance of Before the Marvel of This Night by the GEWC from our 2012 Christmas concert. For more information on WINTERSONG 2017: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, and to order tickets, click on the link on this page.

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 Blooming are 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!

How Many Halls Are We Decking?

In my last blog, I wrote a bit about the beautiful carol See Amid the Winter's Snow. It is just one of several pieces that the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is preparing to sing at our upcoming Wintersong concerts. This time I want to venture into one of our more "sprightly" and undoubtedly well-known selections.

I'm willing to bet that nearly every one of us grew up singing Deck the Hall. Ah, but already I must digress! I also would venture to say that most of us sang as though we were decking several halls, not just one! A small point, but an interesting one: the original title of this song did indeed have us festooning a single hall. It wasn't until perhaps the late 1800s that someone decided that decking out one hall just wouldn't be enough. And so, most of us now sing: Deck the Halls.

This venerable carol of Christmas is a classic illustration of the hardiness of tunes and lyrics, morphing over time, but somehow surviving decade after decade of use. The familiar tune for this carol dates to the 16th century, and is Welsh in origin (by the way, give the Welsh their due for writing some amazing tunes! Just look through the index of a hymnal some time, and stop on some of those strange-looking tune names like CWM RHONDDA). The English lyrics don't actually appear until 1862, written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant. The poetic lines are punctuated by those famous fa la la's which remind us of a Renaissance madrigal.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Hold on a second! What's a troll? Something to do with the Internet? No, can't be that—not in the 1800s. It turns out that back then it meant to sing loudly, or celebrate in song. Aha! So, we're going to gather around and sing a . . . wait a minute, what's Yuletide? Simply put (and there is much more history than this), it's another word for the season of Christmas. It looks like what that quaint line means is simply that we're going to enjoy some good old-fashioned singing of Christmas carols.

Before I say a brief word about the arrangement that the Chorale will sing at our concerts, there is one more interesting tidbit. It turns out that Haydn (yep! Papa Haydn!) actually liked this old Welsh tune enough to write a little version of it for solo voice. Who knew?

At our Wintersong concerts, the Chorale will sing John Rutter's arrangement of Deck the Hall, which he wrote for the recently formed Cambridge Singers in the 1980s. Plenty of those tasty fa la la's, and a rather striking key change to boot!

Next time . . . a look at a rhythmically energetic arrangement of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

Wintersong 2017: Christmas with the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale is Friday, December 1 and Saturday, December 2 at College Church in Wheaton, IL. Ticket information is available on this page. We hope you'll be there!

Give the Gift of Song!

Give the gift of song this holiday season!

Holiday Carolgrams

We'll call your friends and family
and serenade them with a carol from our Wintersong concert!

Visit our Carolgram Shop to order today!

Friends of the Chorale

Lon and Linda Oury

Wheaton, IL

Song Level

Parmelee WebWorks

Full Musical Score Level

Joan Treland,
Treland Educational
Services/Treland Academy

Glen Ellyn, IL

Melody Level

Joseph Lombardo
and Family

Glen Ellyn, IL

Melody Level

Linda DeRaad

Glen Ellyn, IL

Melody Level

David L. Carlson, DDS

Wheaton, IL

Melody Level

Paul Drennan

Glendale Heights, IL

Song Level

Diana M. Visco, DDS

Roselle, IL

Melody Level

Esther and Mark Peterson

Wheaton, IL

Song Level

Scott Hayner,
United Graphics & Mailing Group

Elk Grove Village, IL

Full Musical Score Level

Anonymous Donor

Wheaton, IL

Melody Level

 

Sharon and Bill Knott

Batavia, IL

Melody Level

Daniel James

Sugar Grove, IL

Melody Level

Ann and Charles Evans

Glen Ellyn, IL

Melody Level

 

Larry Fuhrer,
Presidential Services

Naperville, IL

Melody Level

Arthur Kulak

Elk Grove Village, IL

Song Level

Lorraine and Robert
Nieland

Naperville, IL

Melody Level

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