DECEMBER 2 - 9, 2018
First United Methodist Church
1838 SW Jefferson St
Portland, OR 97201
Glory of Christmas
This year’s Glory of Christmas concert celebrates Oregon Repertory Singers’ great legacy, bringing our overflowing audiences some of their all-time favorite pieces. The men’s voices soar in Franz Biebl’s moving Ave Maria, while the women sing excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s beloved Ceremony of Carols. Together, the choristers ring their tuned wine glasses in the ethereal piece Stars by Eriks Esenvalds.
The program also includes Morten Lauridsen’s stunning O Magnum Mysterium, excerpts from Ola Gjeilo’s Northern Lights, Naomi LaViolette’s Angel in the Snow, and Arvo Pärt’s Bogoroditse Devo and Magnificat–teasers for the spring concert celebrating this Estonian national treasure. The ORS Youth Vivo Choir will begin each Sunday performance with a special prelude of seasonal carols, and for all dates the concert concludes with the lively African rhythms of Betelehemu, for which we will be joined by guest middle and high school choristers.
British composer Benjamin Britten wrote his cantata, A Ceremony of Carols, during World War II while he was crossing the Atlantic in 1942 aboard a cargo ship. Since then, the choral work has become a classical music staple during the Christmas season, particularly throughout English-speaking countries.
The cantata is made up of 11 movements: 10 with voice and one for solo harp. It was written originally for a three-part boys’ choir, with soloist and harp accompaniment, but is often performed by a women’s chorus. Some of the carols are in Latin; some are in Middle English based on poems from the 15th and 16th centuries. These texts were part of a collection edited by Gerald Bullett, The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, and published in 1942.
Franz Xaver Biebl was a German composer of classical music. Most of his compositions were for choral ensembles.
Biebl was born in Pursruck, now part of Freudenberg, Bavaria, in 1906. He studied composition at the Musikhochschule in Munich. Biebl served as Choir Director at the Catholic church of St Maria in Mí¼nchen-Thalkirchen from 1932 until 1939, and as an assistant professor of choral music at the Mozarteum, an academy of music in Salzburg, Austria, beginning in 1939, where he taught voice and music theory.
Biebl was drafted into the military beginning in 1943 during World War II. He was a prisoner of war from 1944 to 1946, being detained at Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. After the war, he moved from Austria to Fí¼rstenfeldbruck, Germany, where he served as director of the town chorus.
Biebl's best-known work is his Ave Maria (1964), which sets portions of the Angelus as well as the Ave Maria. The piece was brought to the United States by the Cornell University Glee Club in 1970. The ensemble met Biebl while on tour in Germany, during a recording session at a radio network where Biebl was music director. Conductor Thomas A. Sokol was given a number of Biebl's works, premiering them after returning home. The Ave Maria quickly gained popularity, most notably after becoming part of the repertoire of Chanticleer. Although it was originally scored for male voices, after "Ave Maria" became popular the composer himself rearranged the piece for SATB and SSA choirs as well.