A Visit From St. Nicholas (SOCAN)    David Tanner


A Visit From St. Nicholas, also commonly known by its first line, “’Twas the night before Christmas,” is attributed to the American theologian and professor of Greek and Oriental literature, Clement Moore, circa 1822. This charming poem is where the notion originated of Santa Claus arriving on a sleigh drawn by reindeer and coming down the chimney with a sack full of gifts. The musical accompaniment is based on several well-known Christmas tunes, including Deck the Halls, Silent Night, Good King Wenceslas, Jingle Bells, We Three Kings, and Here We Come a-Wassailing.


Narrator Kerry Stratton is a well-known Canadian conductor and radio personality. His crisp elocution and animated style are the ideal complement to the shifting moods of this music.


O Holy Night (SOCAN)   Alphonse Adam (arr. David Tanner)


O Holy Night originated in France in 1845 as “Cantique de Noel,” Alphonse Adam’s setting of the poem “Minuit, chretiens” (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877. The English text was written in 1855 by American minister and church musician John Sullivan Dwight.


David Tanner’s arrangement of this lovely Christmas song begins and ends with a few bars of “Il est ne, le divin enfant” (The Holy Child is born), another French carol dating from 1862, by R. Grosjean. David Tanner plays the prominent saxophone part, recorded by Kevin Fox.


Rocket Sleigh (BMI)   Delvyn Case


How does Santa deliver THAT many presents to THAT many children – all in one night? Perhaps he uses some space-age technology…



A Winter’s Rime, The Holly and the Ivy & Hodie Christus Natus Est


All three of the songs in this collection were written for the annual "Welcome Christmas" competition of VocalEssence (St. Paul, Minnesota), which solicits songs for a specified chorus and instrument each year. In all three, I chose to use the instrument primarily in antiphonal dialogue with the chorus, and only secondarily as accompaniment.


The poem for A Winter's Rime is from Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost (see https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/loves-labours-lost-act-v-scene-2-winter) and is an earthy commentary on the trials of English winter, perhaps even a tavern song. (The title is my own, a pun on "rime," a thin layer of frost, and "rhyme.") I chose this text partly because the timbre of the English horn is similar to that of many woodwind instruments of Shakespeare's era.


Hodie Christus Natus Est ("Today Christ is born," text at http://www.sfbach.org/text-hodiechristus-natus-est-swv-456) is the Antiphon to the Magnificat, sung at the vespers on Christmas Day. This text has been set literally dozens of times, by the major composers of the Renaissance and Baroque as well as modern composers. The use of the trumpet led me to a joyful setting somewhat in the style of the Gabrielis, who wrote many antiphonal works for chorus and brass, although Andrea and Giovanni's settings of these words are all a cappella.


Even though The Holly and the Ivy has a primarily Christian text (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holly_and_the_Ivy) dating from the early 19th century, and holly and ivy have been used for British Church decoration since the 15th century, the holly was also sacred to the Druids. Inspired by the use of the flute, which is one of the oldest musical instruments, I sought to evoke the Druidic association by using a modal flatted 7th to impart a "Celtic" flavor to the music.


Balulalow   James Shrader


I am fascinated with Gaelic music. With Balulalow, I wanted to write an original tune that could be identified as Scottish, rather than arrange one that already existed. I chose the narrative of this 16th century carol because it portrays the entire Christmas story: The Angel announces the birth of the Child, the shepherds run to the manger, and Mary sings her lullaby (Balulalow) to the Christ Child. The piece begins and ends with a cappella solos for the Angel and for Mary. The middle section describes the excitement of the shepherds’ journey to the manger and their overwhelming awe when encountering the Christ Child. Mary’s lullaby signals the recapitulation of the opening melody. Several distinct compositional and vocal techniques appear in the piece, including tonal clusters, bocca chiusa, and using the separated syllables of the word Balulalow to emulate the plucking of a Scottish harp.


In the Bleak Midwinter   James Shrader


In the Bleak Midwinter is written as a theme and variations. The theme is stated in the first verse as a Chorale. The first variation is for sopranos and altos with altered harmony. The second variation repeats the Chorale, but in a way that reflects the strength of the text. The third and final variation is a call and response between tenor soloist and the ensemble. This work was written in Lubbock, Texas over 30 years ago, and is dedicated to my wife, Aija. It began my interest in composing new settings of familiar Christmas texts which continues to this day.


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the beak midwinter, long ago.


Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged in the air;

But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.


God, heav’n cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heav’n and earth shall perish when He comes to reign;

In the bleak midwinter stable place sufficed;

Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.


What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what can I give Him: give my heart.


God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen    Henry Wolking


Beginning with a moderate waltz chorale, this wonderful old tune finds its groove as a big band bossa nova alternating with a jazz waltz. The arrangement takes a highly melodic yet relaxed approach, as the merry old gents and the ladies both deserve a gentle rest. This arrangement is available from http://www.ejazzlines.com/god-rest-ye-merry-gentlemen-arranged-by-henry-wolking-w62552


Behold That Star    Christopher J. Hoh


Thomas W. Talley created the text and music for "Behold That Star" in the early 20th century and contributed it to a folksong collection of 1922.  A composer, conductor, singer, musicologist and scientist, he composed it in the style of a Negro spiritual, evidently for performance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. His carol caught on, being performed by singers from Marian Anderson to Pete Seeger and others.  Despite its popularity, the song's authorship was forgotten, unattributed in anthologies and television broadcasts in the 1960s and 70s.


The composer notes that this song captivated his ear when playing through his parents’ Christmas music as a child and he turned to it as one of his early choral pieces. Preparing for this recording, he tracked down the 1922 published version and made small adjustments to conform the arrangement to Talley’s original rhythm and words. As with many fine tunes, interpretations vary greatly – some fast and bouncy, others slow and legato. This setting moves along with a strong pulse to bring out the syncopation and give everyone – baritone, choir and organ – rewarding passages to perform.




 Behold that star!

 Behold that star up yonder!

 Behold that star!

 It is the star of Bethlehem.


There was no room found in the inn,

 This is the star of Bethlehem,

For Him who was born free from sin.

 This is the star of Bethlehem.




The Wise Men came on from the East,

To worship Him, the Prince of Peace.




A song broke forth upon the night,

From angel hosts all robed in white.




Come Now and Celebrate    Christopher J. Hoh


This song is an invitation.  It was written to be a lively opener for a December concert. No matter which holidays you celebrate, it asks you to join in welcoming a time of cheer and goodwill.  The composer has dedicated it to his friends in the chorus of the U.S. Department of State, The T-Tones, directed by Kathryn Schultz.


Come now and celebrate, come deck the hall.

Carol the sweet refrain:  goodwill to all.

Banish the cold, and sing of the light.

Welcome the season, be merry and bright.


Come as we revel and make rafters ring;

Join the festivities, joyfully sing.

Laughter abounds, so be of good cheer.

Smile for it’s time now, ring out the old year.


Come, bring your neighbor and all gather ‘round.

Hark to the magical holiday sound.

Let us all pray for peace on the earth.

Let us all reach out in kindness and mirth.




The musical genesis of the Lullaby comes from an actual lullaby which I wrote for our daughter when she was born in 1966. The range and nature of the original single-line melody was written to suit her mother’s voice.


Since that time, the lullaby has gone through two other iterations. The first is a setting called The Virgin Mary’s Lullaby for solo voice with violin and organ accompaniment. The melody was expanded to fulfill its new role and an harmonic context was added. A new set of words was created to reflect the aura surrounding the birth of the holy child.


The second version is the one which is recorded here. It is for two and three-part women’s chorus with basically the same violin and organ accompaniment and the same text as Mary’s Lullaby. This setting was written for the women of the Western Carolina Community Chorus and their director, Dr. Robert Holquist.


Lullaby, lullay*

My Babe here asleep while I watch,

While I watch and sing for you.

Lullaby, lullay,

You bring us Joy and Peace.


Lullay, Lullaby my Babe,

While Angels sing of Peace on Earth and God’s great Love to all.

For in God’s Love is found the dearest desire of every soul.


Lullay, lullaby, my Babe,

While lowly shepherds watch their flocks through the night.

May this Love be a bright and shining star to guide our days.


My sweet Babe,

You give us Peace,

You give us Joy,

You give us Love.



(*Lullay = loo-lay)                                                                                      Text by Phillip Rhodes  ©2012



A Christmas Celebration    TIMOTHY LEE MILLER


A Christmas Celebration is a high-energy piece that evokes the flurry and bustle that accompanied the Christmas season. The work is a combination of two songs written in 1986 for the Berkeley High School Band in Moncks Corner, SC during the composer's tenure as the band director. The two songs, Hurry, Hurry Snowy Flurry and Christmas is Here Again, were penned as a part of the 1986 Christmas concert for which he wrote or arranged every piece of music on the program for both band and chorus. It was a big event in Moncks Corner and was even televised on local television. In this more upbeat and contemporary version of the two pieces, Christmas is Hear Again, which is a chorale, is sandwiched between two verses of Hurry, Hurry Snowy Flurry, which is fanfare-like. The work ends with a flare with trilling woodwinds and charging brass and percussion.



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