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
Friday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 1 at 3:00 p.m.
College Church in Wheaton