Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 23

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639

The Shepherd's Carol
by Bob Chilcott, and performed by
The Choir of St John's Church, Elora.

Today, we change our focus from the Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, and hear the Shepherds' description of their encounter with angels on Christmas Eve. This is another "modern" carol, but it is one that is being performed more and more, by choral ensembles world-wide. Although it is not a strictly "melodic" work, it creates a beautiful sound-picture of the Shepherds' experience: the music begins with several tiny voices, and builds in harmony and intensity until the listener can hear the choirs of angels, and imagine their heavenly light. And, once the angels have delivered their message and fade away into the night sky, so do the chorister's voices. I discovered this carol several years ago on an early recording of The Choir of St John's Church, Elora, and it is this performance that I offer you today, in the music player on the right.

Bob Chilcott is one of the most active composers and choral conductors in Britain today. He has been involved in choral music most of his life, and was once a chorister in The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. He is quite well known for having sung the “Pie Jesu” on the renowned 1967 King’s recording of Faure’s Requiem, conducted by Sir David Willcocks. He returned to King’s as a Choral Scholar, and between 1985 and 1997 was a member of the British vocal group The King’s Singers. He has been a full-time composer since 1997.

Every year, King's College, Cambridge commissions a new carol for their choir to sing at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. "The Shepherd's Carol" was written for, and performed at, the Millennium year's service. Below, I have included the video of this lovely performance.

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