The Mystery of Christmas
For almost two thousand years people around the worldhave been gathering to celebrate the Christmas season. These celebrations areas varied as their countries of origin but share at least two common threads - thebirth of Christ, and a desire to celebrate this event in music.
In the town of Elora, in the Canadian province of Ontario,people usually find themselves gathering amidst snowdrifts and impending winterto celebrate the Christmas season. Music is always a centrepiece as they drawupon many centuries and vocal traditions, all celebrating the wonder andmystery of this season.
Carols such as Silent Night, O Come all ye Faithfulor Hark! the Herald Angels Sing are sung throughout the world andneed little introduction. Other music on this disc is less well known. TheHuron Carol has the distinction of being one of the first pieces of Christmas musicwritten in North America. It was composed by the missionary Father Jean de Brebeufin about 1641 as he was working among the Huron Indians in Ontario, not so farfrom where many of the Elora Festival singers now make their homes.
At the other end of the timeline, we have several beautifulcelebrations of the season by composers living and working in the twentiethcentury. John Tavener wrote God is With Us at the request of Winchester Cathedralin England, where it was first performed in 1987 The text is adapted from theOrthodox Great Compline for Christmas Eve and shows the profound influence ofthe Orthodox Church on Tavener's music.
Ring-a the News was written by the Canadian composerand Elora resident Robert Evans in 1989 and can be performed with the choirtogether with organ or brass quintet. Elizabeth Poston composed her lovely Christmashymn Jesus Christ the Apple Tree in 1967 but uses words taken from abook of hyms and spirituals published in New Hampshire in 1784.
Arthur Honegger and Francis Poulenc both used Latin textsas the basis for their Christmas works. It is interesting to note that whileFrancis Poulenc had a troubled and sometimes ambivalent relationship with thechurch throughout his life, the Quatre motets pour le temps de Noel areamong his most spiritual compositions. Perhaps music offered Poulenc a unique roadto his own spiritual understanding.
Other music on The Mystery of Christmas includes traditionalhymns and carols from across Europe, music brought to North America withsuccessive waves of immigrants. King Jesus hath a Garden is from Holland,Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day from England, The Linden Tree Carol
from Germany, and Star in the South from Poland.