The Christmas Story (2011)

Traditional, Gade, Eccard, Anonymous, Hopkins, Anerio, Byrd, Grandi, Pearsall, Skempton, Tomasi

Theatre of Voices - Ars Nova Copenhagen

Paul Hillier

The idea behind this recording was shaped by the English tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols. Like the story of Christmas itself, this tradition had humble beginnings. A thousand years ago, Cornwall (in the southwest of England) was joined to the Diocese of Devon under the Bishop of Exeter. It was only many centuries later – in 1877 – that it was finally given its own diocese once again, this time at Truro. A new cathedral was immediately planned, but while it was being built services had to be held in a temporary wooden building – often referred to as a ‘hut’, but large enough to hold 400 parishioners. This is where, on Christmas Eve 1880, the first service of ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ was given and, unwittingly perhaps, a new tradition was created. 
The service was designed by the Bishop of Truro, E. W. Benson. In the words of his son, the writer A. C. Benson: ‘My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop.’ In 1918 the service was adopted at King’s College Cambridge by the Dean, Eric Milner-White. In 1928 it was first broadcast by the BBC and it has now become one of the fixtures of Christmas broadcasting around the world. 
I have lived in Denmark for nearly ten years. It is a country with a strong sense of tradition beneath the sophisticated veneer of its relaxed modernity, and this manifests itself strongly at the solstices. At midwinter the intense darkness, the crisp cold, and the Danes’ addiction to candlelight have made me nostalgic for the Christmas services of my youth. So with Ars Nova Copenhagen we started in 2008 to present our own version of the service – usually as a concert programme in churches rather than as part of the liturgy. It proved very popular and has become part of our annual season. Sometimes the singers give the readings (in Danish, naturally, though some of them have Swedish or Norwegian accents), and sometimes they are given by members of the community. All agree that the music gains an extra dimension by being folded into the spoken narrative, especially when the readings are shared among audience and performers alike. 
I then thought of making a recording that would include the readings. But in which language (or languages) should they be given? Rejecting the idea of a mixture of many languages (attractive to me, but perhaps not to all) I looked instead for pieces of music that would go some way towards filling out the narrative in a suitable fashion. The following synopsis is drawn from the readings that form part of our presentation. Those familiar with the King’s College tradition will notice close resemblances, but also differences – in the latter part especially. 

 

 

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Paul Hillier

His musical interests range from medieval to contemporary music and include singing, conducting, and writing. In 1990, after many years as Music Director of the Hilliard Ensemble, he founded the Theatre of Voices and began his series of acclaimed recordings for harmonia mundi usa. From 1996 to 2003, Hillier was Director

of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington. In September, 2001 he was named Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with which he launched
a cycle of recordings exploring the choral tradition of the Baltic Sea countries. Baltic Voices 1 and Baltic Voices 2 met with unanimous praise and each won Hillier a Grammy® nomination.The Powers of Heaven, a much-admired pro- gram of Russian Orthodox sacred music, was followed by Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, Op. 37 and, most recently, by Baltic Voices 3. In 2004 Paul Hillier was awarded the Estonian Cultural Prize.

In 2002 he was made Honorary Professor in Music
at the University of Copenhagen, and in 2003 accepted the post of Chief Conductor of Vocal Group Ars Nova (Copenhagen). Hillier is the author of a monograph “Arvo Pa?rt” (1997) and editor of “The Collected Writings of Steve Reich” (2002), both published by Oxford University Press. His latest project is a book about consort singing.

Theatre of Voices - Ars Nova Copenhagen

The Grammy®-award winning ensemble THEATRE OF VOICES was founded by Paul Hillier in 1990. Current projects include music ranging from Dowland, Carissimi, Buxtehude and Bach, to many of today’s most eminent composers such as Arvo Pa?rt, Steve Reich, John Cage, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, and David Lang. The group regularly performs at Edinburgh Festival, Barbican Centre and Carnegie Hall – where they premiered David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion.” The piece was commissioned for TOV and won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. The harmonia mundi recording won a Grammy® Award in 2010. TOV’s 2007 recording of Stockhausen’s “Stimmung” led to the ensemble being invited to open the 2008 Berliner Festspiele at the composer’s request. Theatre of Voices works with some of the world’s best instrumentalists and has premiered Gavin Bryars’s “The Stone Arch” with the Kronos Quartet at Barbican Centre’s Steve Reich Festival. In 2009 the ensemble presented a new production by Chinese composer Liu Sola also at the Barbican Centre and Takkelloftet at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen: “The Afterlife of Li Jiantong.” Presently, Theatre of Voices is working with London Sinfonietta on a new round of music by Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. 

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The Christmas Story (2011)

Traditional, Gade, Eccard, Anonymous, Hopkins, Anerio, Byrd, Grandi, Pearsall, Skempton, Tomasi

Theatre of Voices - Ars Nova Copenhagen

Mastering Engineer: Brad Michel
Producer: Robina G. Young
Recording Engineer: Brad Michel
Recording location: Garnisons Kirk, Copehagen, Denmark
Recording Software: Pyramix
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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807565DI: The Christmas Story
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Tracks.
1.
Rorate coeli desuper
Anonymous
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2.
Veni veni Emanuel
Traditional
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3.
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
Traditional
00:03:25   Select quality & channels above
4.
Dum deambularet Dominus in Paradisum
Tomasi
00:04:53   Select quality & channels above
5.
Adam lay y-bounden
Skempton
00:01:35   Select quality & channels above
6.
In dulci iubilo
Pearsall
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7.
Missus est Gabriel
Grandi
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8.
Puer natus est
Anonymous
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9.
O magnum mysterium
Byrd
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10.
Voi ch'ai notturni rai
Anerio
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11.
Dormi, dormi, o bel bambin
Traditional
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12.
Liebe Hirten
Traditional
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13.
Andachtsjodler
Traditional
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14.
We three kings
Hopkins
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15.
Videntes stellam
Anonymous
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16.
Personent hodie
Traditional
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17.
Herodes iratus
Anonymous
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18.
Vox in Rama
Anonymous
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19.
Uebers Gebirg
Eccard
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20.
Maria wallt zum Heiligtum
Eccard
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21.
The holly and the ivy
Traditional
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22.
Barn Jesus i en krybbe la
Gade
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23.
We wish you a merry Christmas
Traditional
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