Monday, December 19, 2011

The Words We Sing--The Message We Bring

On This Day Earth Shall Ring
The Symphonic Choir at Festival of Carols, 2011
(Tim Carlson, photo)

Tonight at our meeting of the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, I used part of the time for my Artistic Director's Report to reflect on some of the beautiful and potent lyrics we hear in our favorite carols.

"What Child Is This," with words by William Chatterton Dix is familiar to us all of course in the GREENSLEEVES tune. It was the text selected by Shane Monds, a young composer commissioned to write a work for the Symphonic Choir's Festival of Carols performances this month. Shane's beautiful treatment of the words brought contextual poignancy to the Passion reference in verse two: "Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you."

GK Chesterton's text "A Child of the Snows" was the lyric for the ISC's other world premiere this month, and beautiful anthem by California-based composer Christina Whitten Thomas. Her masterful treatment brought into sharp relief the oh-so-humble rustic-ness of the Christ-child's birthplace: "We follow the feet where all souls meet at the inn at the end of the world....The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold. And a Child comes forth alone."

Finally, an old favorite, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear," from American poet Edmund H Sears. As a choir director, I'm especially drawn to the final line of each of the five stanzas: "...the angels sing"! Sitting around the board room table this night, we looked at the poem, verse by verse. We noted its frank assessment of humanity's struggle at establishing a lasting peace: "Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; Beneath the angel strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong" (sadly this verse is often omitted from hymnals). And we were warmed by the hopeful message of the final verse: "When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing."

And would you believe it, my courageous, trusting board members joined me in singing an a cappella verse, right there in our spartan meeting room. We got some respectable harmony going too! Amen to board members, angels, choirs, kids, audiences, anyone who keeps these great songs alive.

Christmas, December, the holidays...a season for singing.

Merry Christmas, friends!

1 comment:

  1. great post, eric! :) singing great music is all well and good, but meaningful reflection is a must! the choir is in good hands.