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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Edward Pola and George Wyle | arr. Bob Krogstad)

Written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle, this song is a celebration and description of activities associated with the Christmas season, focusing primarily on get-togethers between friends and families. Among the activities included in the song is the telling of "scary ghost stories," a Victorian Christmas tradition that has mostly fallen into disuse, but survives in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Edward Pola (1907-1995) was born Sidney Edward Pollacsek and George Wyle (1916-2003) was born Bernard Weissman, both to Jewish families in New York City. In addition to writing songs, Pola produced many radio programs, and later moved into television. Wyle got his start playing piano in the Catskills and moved to Los Angeles in 1946; he was the choir director of The Andy Williams Show, where “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” debuted. Wyle is also famous for writing the music to the theme song for Gilligan’s Island.

This  2006 arrangement is  by Bob Krogstad, whose career in music spans nearly four decades. During this time he has composed and arranged choral and instrumental music for leading publishers around the world. He served as Musical Director for both Mel Tormé and Natalie Cole. His love of Christmas music can also be found on the five albums he recorded with the London Symphony for Hallmark Cards.

Magnificat: Mvt. 1 "Magnificat anima mea" (John Rutter | Soloist: Joanna Curtis )

Magnificat anima mea Dominum:
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent
omnes generationes.

My soul proclaims your greatness, O God.
And my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
For you have looked with favor upon your lowly
servant, and from this day forward all generations
will call me blessed.

John Rutter (b. 1945, England), the highly-regarded and widely-performed Britisher composer, was first published at age eighteen, when Shepherd’s Pipe Carol appeared in print. He studied music at Cambridge University, where a few years later he became conductor of the Clare College choir. In 1981 Rutter formed the Cambridge Singers.

The Magnificat - the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke I: 46-55) - traditionally formed part of the ancient service of Vespers in the medieval Roman rite. After the Reformation it was incorporated into the evening services of the Lutheran and Anglican churches, where it was linked with the Nunc Dimittis. The Magnificat has been set to music more often than any liturgical text other than the Mass itself, in settings that vary enormously in style and scale, from the purity of Palestrina’s exquisite four-part unaccompanied compositions to Monteverdi’s grand, dramatic settings written for St Mark’s, Venice, and later the almost symphonic conception of Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, of which the Magnificat forms the final movement, written in 1780 for use in Salzburg Cathedral.

Notes by: John Bawden

The Bluebird (Charles Villiers Stanford | Soloist: Rachel Jones)

The lake lay blue below the hill,

O'er it, as I looked, there flew

Across the waters, cold and still,

A bird whose wings were palest blue.

The sky above was blue at last,

The sky beneath me blue in blue,

A moment, ere the bird had passed,

It caught her image as she flew.

Stanford (1852-1924, Ireland) studied music at Cambridge, Leipzig and Berlin, and remained faithful to the Romantic tradition.  He co-founded, in 1882, the Royal College of Music and taught there for the rest of his life.  He was also Professor of Music at Cambridge.  His students included Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Stanford distrusted modernism, and followed the classical principles found in the music of Brahms. He composed seven symphonies, nine operas and many choral works.

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! (Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn | arr. Mark Hayes)

This song was written in 1945 in Hollywood, California during a heat wave, as lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne imagined cooler conditions. Although the lyrics make no mention of Christmas, this piece is most popular during the Christmas season

Jule Styne (1905-1994) was born in London to Jewish parents from the Ukraine. His family moved to Chicago when he was 8. Sammy Cahn (1913-1993) was born Sammy Cohen on the Lower East Side of New York, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. This arrangement by Mark Hayes is sparkling, bright, happy, and simply gorgeous.

In Dulci Jubilo (arr. Matthew Culloton)

In dulci jubilo, 

Let us our homage show!

Our heart's joy reclineth

In praesepio;

And like a bright star shineth

Matris in gremio.

Alpha es et O!

 

O Jesu parvule!

I yearn for thee alway!

Hear me, I beseech thee,

O Puer optime!

My pray'r let it reach thee,

O Princeps gloriae;

Trahe me post te.

 

O Patris caritas!

Nati lenitas!

Deeply were we stained,

Per nostra crimina;

But thou hast gained

Coelorum gaudia!

O that we were there!

 

Ubi sunt gaudia,

Where, if they be not there?

There are angels singing

Nova cantica!

There the bells are ringing

In Regis curia.

In sweet joy

 

 

In a manger

 

In (your) mother’s lap

Beginning and ending

 

O infant Jesus

 

 

O best of boys

 

O Prince of glory;

Draw me after you (to heaven)

 

O love of the Father

O mercy of the Son

 

Through our sins

 

The joys of heaven

 

 

Where are joys

 

 

New songs

 

In the King’s courts.

The familiar 14th century song In Dulci Jubilo is given a contemporary setting by Matthew Culloton (b. 1976), the founder and artistic director of The Singers, a professional choir based in Minneapolis. From the outset a unique choral accompaniment is established, incorporating a vibrant rhythmic motif that is prevalent throughout the piece. The text is macaronic, meaning the words are in both Latin and the vernacular (German in the original medieval song, English in our

version tonight). Culloton’s syncopated rhythms make for an upbeat, celebratory piece.

Sure on this Shining Night (Morten Lauridsen | arr. Allison Sniffin

Sure on this shining night

Of starmade shadows round,

Kindness must watch for me

This side the ground.

 

The late year lies down the north.

All is healed, all is health.

Hearts all whole.

 

Sure on this shining night

I weep for wonder

Wand'ring far alone

Of shadows on the stars

The music of Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943), Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the 21st century. Named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005, Lauridsen received the 2007 National Medal of the Arts by the President in a White House ceremony “for his composition of radiant choral works combining beauty, power, and spiritual depth.” The text of Sure On This Shining Night was based on an untitled lyric from James Agee’s only published collection of poems, Permit Me Voyage (1934). Lauridsen wrote of this setting, “I set the verse very much like a song from the American musical theater and it should be sung in that manner.”

We Will Meet (John Bell | Accompaniment: Eric Sedgwick)

We will meet when the danger is over,
we will meet when the sad days are over;
we will meet sitting closely together
and be glad our tomorrow has come.

We will join to give thanks and sing gladly,
we will join to break bread and share wine;
and the peace that we pass to each other
will more than a casual sign.

So let's make with each other a promise
that when we've all come through is behind,
we will share what we missed and find meaning
in the things that once troubled our mind.

Until then may we always discover
faith and love to determine our way.
That's our hope and God's will and our calling
for our lives and for every new day.

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, John Bell set Hans-Olav Moerk's Norwegian text to music as a reflection on the pain of separation and the hope of reuniting one day soon. We present it to you as our virtual choir piece this holiday season and look forward to the day when we can sing for you in person.

The Christmas Song (Robert Wells and Mel Tormé | Accompaniment: Cynthia Powell)

Debra Monk is an American actress, singer, and writer, best known for her performances on the Broadway stage. She earned her first Tony Award for the 1993 production of Redwood Curtain and won an Emmy Award for several guest  appearances on NYPD Blue between 1998 and 1999. A great friend to The Stonewall Chorale, Ms. Monk graciously shared this performance of a holiday classic written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé.

True Colors (Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly | arr. David Sisco | Soloists: Jan Thompson, David Fanger, Larissa Flint, Donald Johnston, Rachel Jones)

You with the sad eyes,

Don't be discouraged, though I realize

It's hard to take courage

In a world full of people,

You can lose sight of it all,

The darkness there inside you

Makes you feel so small.

 

But I see your true colors

Shining through.

I see your true colors,

That's why I love you.

So don't be afraid to let them show,

Your true colors are beautiful

Like a rainbow.

 

Show me a smile then,

And don't be unhappy,

Can't remember when

I last saw you laughing.

If this world makes you crazy

And you've taken all you can bear,

Just call me up,

Because you know I'll be there.

True Colors was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, and was the title track of Cyndi Lauper's 1986 album. Steinberg recalls, "Tom said to me sometime after we had written it, 'You know, the chorus of True Colors is so universal and so powerful.' At first, we were very much enamored with the idea that the song had a gospel feel to it. Cyndi’s recording took our breath away because it was simply brilliant and original. I remember thinking it felt like a Japanese haiku, fragile and delicate." Lauper explained her approach: "it should feel like someone is whispering in your ear very gently, because if you approach something that sentimental in a pure way, in a simple way, the power of simplicity and gentleness is like the power of a gentle hand." Since then, True Colors has taken on a life of its own in the LGBT community, helping many young people who have struggled with their identity. After years of receiving numerous letters from fans who had been aided by the song's inspirational lyrics, Lauper co-founded the True Colors Fund, a non-profit which seeks to educate people regarding LGBT issues and end LGBT youth homelessness.

Notes by Deb Reiner

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Yip Harburg)

E. Y. (Yip) Harburg (1896-1981), in a career spanning over fifty years, was known as “Broadway’s social conscience.” A master lyricist, poet and book writer, Yip was always dedicated to social justice. He wrote the words to over 600 songs, most notably all the lyrics in the 1939 motion picture classic “The Wizard of Oz,” including “Over the Rainbow” which was voted the Number 1 recording of the 20th century in a 2001 poll conducted by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Recording Industry Association of America.

Source: https://yipharburg.com/about-yip-2/biography/