Ancient Noëls When praise transcends speech, it becomes poetry. When poetry takes on rhythm and melodic flow, it becomes song. Mankind has been singing the praises of Christ's birth for centuries, with many of these ancient carols taking on a life of their own. The Lyric Brass have collected many of their favorite Christmas carols from the more distant past and woven them into a tapestry of ancient noëls. The Prelude on Divinium Mysterium, or 'Of the Father's Love Begotten,' is a setting of the plainsong chant from the 1200s. It's haunting melody has opened Christmas services for 800 years. Gaudete translates to "Rejoice," and is a sacred Christmas carol in reference to Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent. The song was published in the Piae Cantiones, a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs published in 1582, but the tune comes from much older liturgical song books. The Latin text is a song of praise following the standard structure of a uniform series of four-line stanzas, each preceded by a two-line solo refrain. The traditional English carol Masters In This Hall has text by William Morris that conjures imagery of a bard in a medieval banquet hall. "Masters in this hall, Hear ye news today!" It tells the story of Mary and Joseph's long journey and Christ's birth in Bethlehem town. The setting is reminiscent of several concert favorites of the Lyric Brass, and full of drive and technical flair. Arcangelo Corelli lived from 1653 to 1713 in Italy. He wrote twelve concerti grossi that were composed during the last two decades of his life and first performed at the composer's weekly concerts in Rome. They were published posthumously, in 1714. Each concerto was originally scored for a solo concertino of two violins and cello with string orchestra and continuo, before being recast for brass by the talented arranger and tuba player Paul Erion. The most famous of the concerti is the eighth, dubbed the "Christmas Concerto" because of it's final movement, marked Pastorale ad libitum. This is derived from the Italian word pastori, referring to the shepherds who gathered at the manger in Bethlehem. By 1700, it had become an Italian tradition for shepherds to travel to a nearby town on Christmas Eve and play their pipes in front of live nativity scenes. The music that was associated with this tradition was a gentle, lilting siciliano in 12/8 meter, which Corelli utilizes in this movement. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella is an ancient French carol from the Provence region first published in 1553. Originally it was not a song to be sung at Christmas, but rather served as dance music for noble balls. The carol tells the story of two milkmaids who went to milk their cows in the manger in Bethlehem, only to find the baby Jesus sleeping in the hay. The two girls ran to tell the town of the coming of Christ, and the townspeople came with their own torches to view the sight for themselves. To this day in the Provence region, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while singing carols. The setting is notable for harmonizing the melody with the same tune presented at half speed. The Alleluia from Bach's Cantata "For Us a Child Is Born,"BWV 142, is a virtuosic showpiece for organ with a simple repeating alleluia intoned by choir. Both the choral forces and accompaniment are presented in this arrangement for brass. The Netherland's Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the greatest organists and teachers of the early-seventeenth century. He wrote a collection of motets from the Catholic tradition entitled Cantiones sacrae (1619), which includes the piece Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ Is Born). An exuberant five-part choral piece, it was a natural to be selected by Paul Erion for transcription for brass quintet. The ancient Spanish text of Rìu, Rìu, Chìu uses the onomatopoeic sound of the nightingale to beg for protection of our homes as God kept the "black wolf from the lamb, our Lady," the Virgin Mary. It's driving rhythms have kept it in the forefront of Christmas celebrations for nearly 500 years. By comparison, Do You Hear What I Hear? is a recent pop tune. In fact, Composer Noel Regney and his wife, lyricist Gloria Shayne wrote the Christmas standard in October of 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It became a huge hit for Bing Crosby in 1963, selling over a million copies. Though usually heard as a sentimental song to the Baby Jesus, Regney later said "I am amazed that people can think they know the song, and not know it is a prayer for peace." Finally, the Catalonian carol Fum, Fum, Fum is again based on an onomatopoeic figure representing the vibrant strumming of the Spanish guitar reminiscent of the area. Our program closes with our own setting of the traditional English carol I Saw Three Ships. The legend about sailing into landlocked Bethlehem can be traced back to the 12th century when it is said that three ships brought the relics of the wise men to Köln, Germany. The English folk carol has been traced back to the 15th century. The "three ships" refers to the belief that there were three wise men - which is based on the number of gifts given to the newborn king. It is our sincere hope that this collection of ancient carols and hymns adds to your Christmas celebration. Notes by Andrew Spang.