Psallite Michael Praetorius
Ave Maria Tomás Luis de Victoria
Lo, How a Rose arr. Bruce Saylor
A Spotless Rose Herbert Howells
The Wexford Carol
arr. John Rutter
The Gift arr. Robert Chilcott
The First Noel arr. Darmon Meader
Betelehemu arr. Jonathan Crutchfield
African Noel arr. André Thomas
Mi Y’mallell
arr. Herbert Fromm
“Arise and Be Free:
A Suite for Chanukah”
arr. Steve Barnett
Y’mei Chanukah
Mi Y’maleil
Mi Zeh Hidlik

Carol of the Bells

arr. Peter J. Wilhousky
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy arr. Jeff Funk
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
arr. Arthur Warrell

Program Notes

During this holiday season, Octarium performs outstanding choral music from several traditions; the Western Christian tradition, the African Christian tradition the Jewish tradition and the secular tradition.

From the Western Christian tradition

Psallite from Musae Sioniae

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
English text by John Rutter

Praetorius’ given name was Michael Schultheiß (German for “mayor,”
which in Latin is “Praetorius”). He was not only a composer,
but also a musicologist. From 1605 to 1610, he edited Musae Sioniae,
a collection of 1,244 arrangements of songs and hymns in nine volumes. History
remembers him chiefly for his Syntagma musicum (3 vol., 1615–19),
which minutely describes the musical practices and the instruments of his
day and has become an important source for those seeking to perform 17th
century music with authenticity.

Psallite unigenito Sing psalms
Christo, Dei Filio, To Christ, the Son of God,
Psallite Redemptori, Sing psalms to the Redeemer,
Domino, puerulo To the Lord, the little Child
jacenti in praesepio. lying in a manger bed.

Lo, in a manger bed there lies an infant small
Angel hosts their homage pay before the lord of all.

Glory to God on high the choirs of angels sing,
Peace on earth goodwill to men their voices echoing.

Ave Maria
Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Ave Maria is a well-known text exalting Mary, the mother of Christ. Victoria’s
Ave Maria may be the most popular Victoria composition performed in modern
times but might not have come from Victoria’s pen. The setting appears
in a supplement to the last volume (published in 1913) of Pedrell’s
edition of the complete works of Victoria, containing a number of compositions
attributed to Victoria but which do not appear in any known Renaissance
source. This makes it difficult to determine with certainty the origin of
the piece. Ave Maria also has aesthetic features that are not in Victoria’s
style. The most clear example is the “Sancta Maria Mater Dei”
section that is repeated in a forte-piano effect, which is a hallmark of
the baroque era. One interesting theory of the piece’s origin is that
Karl Proske, a 19th century musicologist, composed it. From 1853 until his
death in 1861 Proske compiled Musica Divina, which transcribed
and collected hundreds of historical scores. After Proske’s death,
a student endeavored to finish the fourth volume, which included some pieces
of unknown composers. This student, perhaps mistakenly, attributed this
Ave Maria to Victoria and some scholars believe, with little proof, that
Proske had written the piece to test his students’ abilities in placing
pieces with probable composers. If that was indeed the case, the student
failed. Miserably.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
benedicta tu in mulieribus
You are blessed among women
et benedictus fructus ventris tui: Jesus.

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
now and in the hour of our death.

The Rose in Winter has become one of the most enduring of all Christmas
symbols and has given rise to an entire genre of Christmas song. But the
rose image causes much confusion; is the rose Mary? Or is it Jesus? And
who is this Jesse person?

The image originally came from the allegorical prophecy of Isaiah that the
Messiah would be a new shoot arising from the stem of Jesse, father of David
the King. Jesse was the son of Obed, and grandson of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth
4:13-22). Jesse had eight sons and two daughters. His youngest son became
King David, making Jesse an important ancestor of Jesus Christ. In the mediaeval
period it was very often the practice to make a window of stained glass,
called a Jesse window, which portrayed the lineage of Christ from Jesse,
the father of David, through Mary, the one spotless human creature. The
Jesse windows showed the ancestors of Christ as the leaves and branches
coming from a central stem. At the top of the stem were Mary and Jesus,
often encased in the image of a rose. So the “new shoot” became
a rose in iconography, and that rose represents the Messiah, the Christ.

In the late Middle Ages the rose began to be more associated with the Virgin
Mary. It was a symbol of joy, and the name rosarium, literally
a rose garden, was applied to an early practice of the rosary in which a
litany of fifty joys of Mary was recited alternating with Aves.

At the beginning of the Reformation in the 16th century, those who followed
Martin Luther were confronted with the problem of dealing with songs about
Mary or addressed to her; she is referred to as “the queen,” “the
blooming branch,” “the rose without thorns,” and “the
one who gave birth to God.” To make these texts usable, Lutherans attempted
to make satisfactory alterations. Sometimes they consisted of no more than
substituting the name of Jesus for Mary.

So from Christ to Mary and back again, the rose has become a lasting symbol
of the Christmas season.

Lo! How a Rose, E’er Blooming
arr. Bruce Saylor (b. 1946)

Lo, how a rose e’re blooming from tender stem hath sprung,

Of Jesse’s lineage coming as seers of old have sung.
It came, a blossom bright, amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

A Spotless Rose
Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

A Spotless Rose is blowing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter,
And in the dark midnight.
The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary, purest Maid;
For through our God’s great love and might
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter’s night.

The “Wexford Carol” is probably the best known
carol to come from Ireland and is associated with William Grattan Ford (1859
– 1928), who was organist and music director at St. Aidian’s Cathedral in
Enniscorthy, a town in the county of Wexford, Ireland. He transcribed the
carol from a local singer, and had it published in the Oxford book of carols.
It has remained a well-loved part of the repertoire ever since.

Bob Chilcott has been involved in choral music for most of his life, as
a boy chorister and choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, and
as a member of the vocal group The King’s Singers for twelve years.
“The Gift” is adapted from his setting of the Shaker tune “Gift
to be Simple,” with new text heralding the birth of Jesus.

Wexford Carol
Irish traditional carol arr. John Rutter (b. 1945)

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day;
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox’s stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
‘Prepare and go,’ the angels said.
‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid:
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find.
And as God’s angel had foretold,
They did our saviour Christ behold.
Within a manger he was laid,
And by his side the virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.


The Gift
Traditional Shaker tune arr. Robert Chilcott (b. 1955)
Text: Tony Vincent Isaacs

The gift we deliver, the gift we receive
Is the living spirit Mary did conceive,
The royal gift of love incandescent flame
Is given to all mankind in his name.
Joy, joy it is our true delight
To receive on this wondrous night
A boy child to Mary is born
And his light will shine on beyond the dawn.

Darmon Meader is considered one of the premier vocalists, arrangers and
saxophonists in jazz today. He achieved rapid international recognition
as the founder, musical director, chief arranger, composer, producer, saxophonist
and vocalist with New York Voices. His arrangement of The First Noel is
warm with jazz harmonies that bring new life to the well-known melody.

The First Noel
arr. Darmon Meader

The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel,
born is the King of

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.

From the African Christian tradition

With the influence of Christian missionaries on the African continent, its
vast and varied culture became more so as it adopted Western ideas, including
Christmas. With all good assimilation, however, comes addition and enrichment.
Such is the case with African Christmas music, which ensconced the Christian
Christmas message in native rhythms and melodies.

The Nigerian carol “Betelehemu” was brought to the United States
by Babatunde Olatunji, who was studying at Morehouse College in the mid-1950s.
His choral director, Wendell Whalum, arranged the carol for men’s
voices. Later, Jonathan Crutchfield transcribed the melody into the arrangement
you will hear tonight.

André J. Thomas is an active composer and arranger, and his “African
Noel” captures the infectious rhythm and movement of Africa.

Based on a Yoruban folk text and melody transcribed by Jonathan Crutchfield


Awa yiori Baba gbojule
We are glad we have a Father to trust
Awa yiori Baba fehenti
We are glad we have a Father to rely on
Nibo labi Jesu
Where was Jesus born?
Nibo lagbe bii
Where was he born?
Betelehemu ilu ara
In Bethlehem the city of wonder
Nibe labi Baba o daju
That is where the Father was born for sure
Iyin nifuno
Praise be to Him
Adupe fun o jooni

We thank you for the day
Baba oloreo
Gracious Father
Iyin fun o Baba

Praise to you Father
Baba toda wasi
Merciful Father

African Noel
arr. André J. Thomas (b. 1952)

Sing Noel
Sing We all Noel

Come, ye people, gather here
To hear the news of good cheers.
The King of Kings, the Lamb of God is born today in Bethlehem

From the Jewish tradition

“Chanukah dates back to the struggle led by the Maccabees against
the Hellenistic overseers of the Land of Israel and against Hellenized Jews
from 169-166 B.C.E. Antiochus Epiphanes, the Hellenistic king of the Syrian
branch of Alexander’s empire, had decreed that the practice of local
religions, including Judaism, be rooted out. Pagan rituals and sacrifices
were instituted at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and at shrines throughout
the Land.

Those Jews who were not seduced by the power of Hellenistic
culture rallied under the leadership of Mattathias the priest and his five
sons, who came to be called the Maccabees. After three years of guerrilla
warfare against the armies of Antiochus in the hills and forests, the Maccabean
forces recaptured Jerusalem and rededicated the Holy Temple.” [from
an article by Dale Glasser for the URJ and adapted from Arthur Waskow, Seasons
of Our Joy
, Bantam books, 1982]

The story of the container of oil that lasted eight days
is from the Talmud, a much later source. The eight days were most probably
observed as a late celebration of the Fall festival of Sukkot, which would
have been missed due to the fighting. The reasons for the miracle story
in the Talmud are lost but the most probable explanation is that the story
of the Maccabean revolt was inciting Jewish youth to bloody revolt and too
many young people were dying. To stem the loss of these lives, an alternate
story emerged, one of a miracle, rather than armed resistance. Over time,
the two stories merged into one, melding the historical origins with the
Talmudic explanation.

The enduring message of Chanukah is that the weak can prevail
over the strong; that few can triumph over many. The words of Zechariah
are read on the Sabbath during Chanukah and sum up well the lesson Jews
take from this day. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit,
saith the Lord of hosts.”

The following songs recount some of the traditions of the
Chanukah celebration: latkes are potato pancakes fried in oil, a reminder
of the miraculous oil. A draydle (Yiddish) or s’vivon (Hebrew) is
a four-sided top. On each face of the top is a single letter, N, G, H, or
Sh, which stand for the words Neis Gadol Haya Sham (A great miracle
happened there.)

Special thanks to Cantor Sharon Kohn for contributing
this information.

Mi Y’mallel
arr. Herbert Fromm (1905-1995)

Mi y’maleil g’vurot Yisrael
Who will acclaim the heros of Israel
Otan my yimneh?
Who can count them?
Hein b’khol do yakum ha gibor

In every generation a hero arises to
Goeil haam
save the nation.
Sh’ma! Bayam haheim baz’man hazeh
Listen! In the olden times
Makabi moshiyah ufodeh

the Maccabees helped and freed us
Uv’yameinu kol a, Yisrael,

In our time, the whole nation of Israel
Yit’ached yakum l’higael
Will arise and be free.

Arise and Be Free – A Suite for Chanukah
arr. Steve Barnett

Steve Barnett studied theory and composition at the University of Minnesota.
He attended the Eastman School of Music and produces St. Paul’s Sunday
morning for Minnesota Public Radio. He is also the Grammy-winning producer
of several of Chanticleer’s best recordings, including Tavener:
Lamentations and Praises and Magnifica
t. He approaches four traditional
Chanukah melodies with the sensibility of a choral-ensemble and vocal-jazz

Y’Mei Chanukah

Y’mei ha-Chanukah, Chanukat mikdasheinu
In the days of Chanukah we tell of the renewal of our holiness
B’gil uvsimcha m’mal im et libeinu
Our hearts are filled with celebraion and happiness
Lailah vayom s’vivoneinu yisov
Our draydles spin night and day
Sufganiyot nochal bam larov
We’ll eat mostly latkes then.
Hairu hadliku nerot Chanukah rabim

Shine, light the many Chanukah candles
Al hanism v’al haniflaot asher chol’lu haMakabim
In honor of the miracles and wonders which the Maccabees did
Nitzchon hamakabim n’sapeir n’zameirah,
We will recount and sing of the victories
Alei hasonim az yadm ki gaveirah

In the end the enemies hands were weakened.
Y’rushalayim shava litchiya,
Jerusalem will return to life.
Am Yisraeil asah tushiah.

The Nation of Israel will be aided.


S’vivon sov sov sov
Little top spin spin spin.
Chanukah hu chag tov

Chanukah is a good holiday
Chag simcha hu la’am
It is a joyous holiday for our people
nes gadol haya sham
A great miracle happened there

Mi Y’maleil

Mi y’maleil g’vurot Yisrael
Who will acclaim the heros of Israel
Otan my yimneh?
Who can count them?
Hein b’khol do yakum ha gibor

In every generation a hero arises to
Goeil haam
save the nation.
Sh’ma! Bayam haheim baz’man hazeh
Listen! In the olden times
Makabi moshiyah ufodeh

the Maccabees helped and freed us
Uv’yameinu kol a, Yisrael,

In our time, the whole nation of Israel
Yit’ached yakum l’higael
Will arise and be free.

Mi Zeh Hidlik

Mi zeh hidlik neirot dakim kakochavim barom?
Who will light the narrow candles like the stars in the heavens
Yodim gam tinokot rabim ki Chanukah hayom.

Even the many little children know that today is Chanukah.

Mi zeh hidlik neirot dakim kakochavim barom?
Who will light the narrow candles like the stars in the heavens
Yodim gam tinokot rabim ki Chanukah hayom.

Even the many little children know that today is Chanukah.

From the secular tradition

Carol of the Bells
arr. Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978)

The tune for this carol was written by Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovich (1877-1921)
and was based on an old Ukrainian melody. The original Leontovich piece,
entitled Shchedryk, described what swallows sitting on the eaves
of an inn could see. The words commonly used today were written by the American
composer, arranger and choral director Peter Wilhousky. Although this piece
is most often thought of as secular, it originated with the legend that
at midnight on the evening Jesus was born all the bells on earth started
to sound of their own accord.

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells,
all seem to say, throw cares away
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer,
to young and old, meek and the bold,
Ding dong ding dong that is their song
with joyful ring all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer
from everywhere filling the air
Oh how they pound, raising the sound,
o’er hill and dale, telling their tale,
Gaily they ring while people sing
songs of good cheer, Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send, on without end,
their joyful tone to every home.

Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker Suite

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
arr. Jeff Funk

The Nutcracker is one of the holiday season’s most beloved traditions.
In the ballet a magical toy maker attends a party where he presents a child,
Clara, with a Nutcracker doll. When the guests have departed, the magical
toymaker transports Clara into a world of fantasy. With the aid of the toy
soldiers, Clara and the Nutcracker battle the Mouse King and his army of
mice. Together they slay the Mouse King, and the Nutcracker is transformed
into a handsome prince. The Prince leads Clara on a journey through the
Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets where, upon their arrival, they are
greeted by the lovely Waltzing Flowers and reigning Sugar Plum Fairy and
Cavalier. After the Prince tells the story of how he and Clara defeated
the Mouse King, they are entertained with dances from many lands. The magical
toymaker reappears and returns a sleepy Clara back to her home.

Although Octarium’s take on the famous Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairies,
in a vocal arrangement by Jeff Funk, has a couple of surprises, it does
not include tights or tutus … you can thank us later.