Good evening all, I hope you all are doing great.
How about some music for the Scrooge or the Grinch. I am just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year!
There is an old saying in the classical music game, Good composers borrow, but great composers steal. George Frederick Handel stole from himself constantly, but he also freely stole from others, once saying of another composer, That melody was too good for him. The composer gets credit for Joy to the World, but only because someone stole part of a Handel chorus for a carol of his own. It was a case of karmic payback years after the composer was dead and wasnt in a position to complain.
Felix Mendelssohn gets credit for Hark the Herald Angels Sing because a tune from one of his cantatas was stolen as a replacement melody for Charles Wesleys original solemn tune. Those early Methodists were definitely solemn! Temperance will do that to you, especially around Christmas.
In his day, Franz Schubert was as prolific a songwriter as Paul McCartney or George Gershwin, penning more than 600 tunes written to German poetry. At the Vienna Choir Boys School, Antonio Salieri ran a musical gym for Schubert, and the young composer tried his hand at everything from poems to old Italian opera libretti. In this period Schubert even tried writing a Christmas carol, but the song remains forgettable and unknown.
Johannes Brahms turned a poem by Emmanuel Geibel into Lullaby of the Spirit, a song for contralto with piano and viola accompaniment as his Christmas contribution. (Dont confuse this song with the famous Brahms Lullaby.) The text of the poem is Marys plea, asking the treetops to be still lest they wake the baby Jesus. While the contralto sings Brahms musical line of Geibels poem, the viola sings a completely different German Christmas carol under her as a counter-melody. Its a brilliant achievement, but not something that can be sung by anyone with a voice of less than operatic quality.
The classical winner has to be Adolphe Adam (accent on the second syllable of both names), the French composer of the rather insipid ballet Giselle. On one of his better days, he composed Cantique de Noel, known in English as O Holy Night. That alone qualifies him for a spot in the Composers Hall of Fame despite Giselle.
Cantique is written in D-flat Major (5 flats) which can be a bit of a problem for inexperienced organists; occasionally there is transcription to the less difficult keys of C or D Major. But the real challenge is for the vocalist. At the end, Adam expects his tenor or soprano to hit a high A-flat and come down to D-flat, carefully sounding each note separately, not using portamento to slur the notes. Good singers can handle this, and some church choir soloists are quite up to the job, even if transposition to a different key is necessary.
But the fun really starts when a well meaning choir director decides to have the congregation sing along. I recall all too well listening to my fellow congregants fall flat on their ahem! faces at the those eighth notes at the end.
Youre not supposed to giggle in church!