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Sacred Christmas Music: The Stories Behind…
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Sacred Christmas Music: The Stories Behind the Most Beloved Songs of… (edição: 2008)

de Ronald M. Clancy (Autor)

MembrosResenhasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaConversas
211860,585 (3.5)Nenhum(a)
Take a musical journey in time--from the dawn of the Church’s liturgical song through the Baroque’s great choral and instrumental works to representative pieces of the 20th century. This is the sacred tradition of Christmas music, explored here in a stunningly illustrated book and a magnificent CD. It covers vocal and instrumental pieces from a variety of national and historical periods and styles, all of which have earned a place in the canon of great musical masterpieces. Not only will musicians and non-musicians alike find this an easily accessible guide, but they’ll feast on a sumptuous gallery of thematically and historically corresponding full-color art (including a 14th century manuscript illumination and a nativity scene by Fra Angelico), and revel in some of the best recordings of the music ever made. There’s rich, interesting background on every work, from Latin hymns and liturgical chants to Bach’s cantatas to contemporary carols. The CD includes the Vienna Boys’ Choir performing "Anima Nostra”; Arcangelo Corelli’s "Christmas Concerto”; The Trappist Monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani singing Gregorian Chants; excerpts from Handel’s "Messiah”; and the beloved "Silent Night.” No other collection brings together all these elements in such an aesthetically pleasing and educational way.  … (mais)
Membro:PDemille
Título:Sacred Christmas Music: The Stories Behind the Most Beloved Songs of Devotion
Autores:Ronald M. Clancy (Autor)
Informação:Sterling (2008), 112 pages
Coleções:Waban Office
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Sacred Christmas Music: The Stories Behind the Most Beloved Songs of Devotion de Ronald M. Clancy

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12 Books of Christmas

#3 Holy-day

"Contemplative melodies,” Ronald M. Clancy says in the introduction to his book, “quietly arouse and confirm belief in the omnipotence of a Supreme Being.” The spirits of those who perform, or hear, great music of Christmas, he maintains, “will soar to celestial heights.” I think he may be right.

How else does one explain Handel’s Messiah, Mahler's Eighth Symphony, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto or, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, or Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings? They are inspired, and inspiration implies spirit – a spiritual reality. Or, to be more timely, how else does one explain ”O, Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “O Holy Night,” and “Panis Angelicus”? My favorite songs at Christmastime – to perform, to hear, to experience. They are inspired.

We have just listened to some of our favorite Christmas albums: Vivaldi’s Gloria; Ray Conniff’s We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Glorious Sound of Christmas (our favorites for forty-eight years, going back to the days of old LPs); Christmas to Elvis . . . from the Jordannaires (oh, yes, that one too); some Christmas piano solos; Christmas Classics for Guitar and Christmas in the Smoky Mountains; John Peterson’s cantata, Born a King (our favorite to perform, from thirty-five years ago); and Luciano Paorotti’s album, O Holy Night. Eventually, within the next few days, we’ll make it around to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols; Albert Finney in Scrooge; The Gospel Sound of Christmas; Leontyne Price; and The Bells of Bethlehem. We are nothing, if not diverse.

At some point in one’s life, one realizes that Christmas is not gifts and lights, not Santa Claus and, no, not the Grinch either; not even stories and pageants and living crèches at Tenth and Walnut. Christmas is music.

It was from the very beginning: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will among men.” Christmas is to be sung. “It came upon the midnight clear / That glorious song of old / With angels bending near the earth / to touch their harps of gold.”

I grew up in a conservative, Puritanical tradition, which did not accept Christmas as a holy day (nor instrumental or choral music as an acceptable part of worship). Christmas was, we were told, a pagan celebration of the winter solstice that had been adapted by the Roman Catholic Church to win back peasants and commoners who were reverting to their saturnalian rituals: the wassail bowl, the festivals of light, the strewing of evergreen about the house, holly, ivy, mistletoe, midnight wakes (and revelries!). All those celebrated traditions, from spiked eggnog to Old St. Nick, we were warned, were hold-overs from pagan orgies.

What eventually persuaded me that there was more to Christmas than that was the music. How well I remember my first time (as a college student) to hear The Messiah performed in a lovely cathedral early in the holiday season. Before long, I too was joining in with other performers, my spirit soaring with theirs. I think I was first lifted into my own recognition of “the celestial heights” when I sang the bold tenor recitative:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
that I will raise unto David a righteous branch,
and the king shall reign and prosper,
and shall execute judgment and justice
in the land:
The King shall reign!

(Not Pavorotti’s high C, understand, but a good solid F sharp.)

Christmas is music: from children singing “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” to choirs reviving an old cantata to the Boston Brass Quintet or the Mannheim Steamroller or combined symphony and choir.

So Clancy’s Sacred Christmas Music (Sterling, 2008) is just the book one needs to get in the spirit of Christ’s Mass. Don’t be fooled: it looks like a coffee table book, oversize with glorious, full-color prints ot great art from European museums, featuring the manger scene as painted through the ages – and singers through the ages giving themselves to the holy music. The luminous painting of the choir loft in a church in Rome buy the French painter Francis Marius Granet (1820, oil) is an example of the lofty, transporting art (p47). Nor would the book be complete without the CD of some of the musical works from the book, with performers such as the Westminister Cathedral Choir, the Vienna Boys Choir, the Harvard Glee Club, the Trappist Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Placido Domingo, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (of course), and John Klein on the carillon. Indeed, their spirits soar to celestial heights!

The book itself is an interesting work. It opens with a forty-page “Historical Perspective,” starting with a brief history of the holiday itself. The author gives full credit to those pagan predecessors. But he then traces Christian observances all the way back to the third pope after St. Peter, one Clement (c91-100 AD), who is quoted as saying, “Brethren, keep diligently all feast days, and, the day of truly in the first placeChrist’s birth.”

By the ninth century, Clancy says, the holy-day was firmly established in the church calendar. The season began with Advent, a four-week period of penance and fasting, and culminated with Candlemas on February 2, honoring the presentation of the holy child in the temple in Jerusalem.

But the heart of Clancy’s historical perspective is his account of the development of church music, which of course requires him to discuss Western music generally. Early church music consisted of chants, derived from the Jewish synagogue. Instrumental music was not sanctioned.

“The early church fathers, including St. Augustine . . . were particularly appalled by such a prospect. In fact, they felt music was too seductive and might become a lure and end unto itself. The Church fathers’ rejection of all jusical instruments from Christian worship was also attributable to their association with pagan orgiastic rites and the barbarities of the Roman coliseum.” (p23)

From that point Clancy outlines developments including Latin hymns, liturgical notation, the influence of polyphony and secular music, the introduction of keyboard instruments (such as the organ), music in the Reformation, the Baroque and Classical eras (with Bach and Handel highlighted), the revival of the Gregorian chant, on up to contemporary times.

However, the heart of Clancy’s book are brief essays on sixteen classic examples of sacred music. These, frankly, are a bit like program notes from a concert or recording. They give information about the words and music, the composer and (sometimes) the performer, the origin of the work and its various titles and adaptations, always with English translations of the words. The essays, usually only a page or two long, contain interesting anecdotes, background information, and appreciative comments.

One of the better ones introduces “Veni, Emmanuel” (“O Come, O Come, Immanuel”). It traces the beginning of the carol to the seven Great “O” antiphons, perhaps composed by monks to sing, one stanza each day leading up to the mass on Christmas Eve. Equally, interesting is the story of the English translation, attributed to Rev. John Mason Neale, an Anglican priest of the nineteenth century. who was misunderstood and under-appreciated but who did notable work in his music and in his service to the poor – a genuinely fascinating story.

Typical of Clancy’s appreciative comments is his final word on “Hodie Christus natus est” (“Today Christ is born”): “The lively Alleluias, and the flowing graceful Glorias, cascading like Christmas bells pealing the angels’ glad tidings, further energize the exultant message of the birth of Jesus.”

On the CD, the works are arranged in order through the church year and, at Christmastime, through the church service, beginning with a motet written for the Feast of Annunciation (March 25) and ending with “Hodie Christus natus est” for vespers, late afternoon, on Christmas Day and then “Silent Night.” Regrettably, and why I do not understand, the essays in the book are arranged in alphabetical order instead of their order on the recorded program. Hence, one keeps flipping back and forth to access the notes while listening to the music. The author, it should be noted, is a musician, not a writer, so the prose at times is a bit pedantic and repetitious. But these are minor complaints.

The work as a whole is a glorious reminder that Christmas is music, and the music of Christmas renders it a holy day. ( )
  bfrank | Dec 24, 2010 |
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Take a musical journey in time--from the dawn of the Church’s liturgical song through the Baroque’s great choral and instrumental works to representative pieces of the 20th century. This is the sacred tradition of Christmas music, explored here in a stunningly illustrated book and a magnificent CD. It covers vocal and instrumental pieces from a variety of national and historical periods and styles, all of which have earned a place in the canon of great musical masterpieces. Not only will musicians and non-musicians alike find this an easily accessible guide, but they’ll feast on a sumptuous gallery of thematically and historically corresponding full-color art (including a 14th century manuscript illumination and a nativity scene by Fra Angelico), and revel in some of the best recordings of the music ever made. There’s rich, interesting background on every work, from Latin hymns and liturgical chants to Bach’s cantatas to contemporary carols. The CD includes the Vienna Boys’ Choir performing "Anima Nostra”; Arcangelo Corelli’s "Christmas Concerto”; The Trappist Monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani singing Gregorian Chants; excerpts from Handel’s "Messiah”; and the beloved "Silent Night.” No other collection brings together all these elements in such an aesthetically pleasing and educational way.  

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