***Celebrating Philomusica's 25th anniversary with director Dennis Boyle***


This Fall, Philomusica presents:

PALESTRINA Magnificat quarti toni

and selections from BRITTEN Christ's Nativity

with Other Renaissance to 20th Century Works and seasonal carols

2007 Christmas Concert--Awake! Awake!

Nova! Nova! • Anonymous

Ne Timeas Maria • Tomas Luis de Vittoria (c.1540–1611)
Dixit Maria • Hans Leo Hassler (1564–1612)

Magnificat Quarti Toni • Giovanni Pierluigi da
(NJ Premiere) Dan Lindblom, transcription

Christ’s Nativity • Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
(NJ Premiere)

Christ’s Nativity

Sweet was the Song

New Prince, New Pomp

Carol of King Cnut


Lullay My Liking • Gustav Holst (c.1919)
Bethlehem Down • Peter Warlock (c.1928)
My Dancing Day • Traditional/arr. Parker and Shaw

In Dulce Jubilo • Traditional/arr. Pearsall (c.1991)
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming • Michael Praetorius
Psallite • Michael Praetorius

Deck the Halls • Welsh Traditional
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing • Felix Mendelssohn
Silent Night, Franz Gruber/arr. Puerling (1929- )


Our Lady of Peace Church, North Brunswick, NJ
277 Washington Place/Route 130 North
Click Here for Map and Directions

Ticket prices at the door are $18 regular, $16 students/seniors, $9 children under 13.
Discounted tickets are available for advance purchase.  Scroll down for more information.

Click Here to Purchase a Jersey Arts Gift Card

Program Notes for 2007 Christmas Concert--Awake! Awake!:

After the introductory Nova, Nova, our concert begins with two pieces, which not only share an artistic time period and a particular compositional technique, but also have complimentary texts. Ne Timeas Maria by Vittoria is a setting of the Angel’s announcement to Mary that she is to be the Mother of God, and Hassler’s Dixit Maria is Mary’s reply to this news. Both pieces were written during the Renaissance and employ a compositional technique known as “point of imitation.” This can be heard most clearly at the opening of Dixit Maria. The tenors begin with the first theme which is then imitated four notes lower by the altos, then by the sopranos eight notes higher, and finally by the basses who sing exactly what the tenors sang. In this piece and in Ne Timeas Maria, each new section of text is set to a new point of imitation, with only two exceptions. In Vittoria’s Ne Timeas Maria, all the voices finally sing the same rhythm at the same time at the words “…et vocabitur…” (“…and he shall be called…”) in order to draw special attention to the final words, “…Altissimi filius” (“…Son of the Most High”). The same type of thing occurs in Hassler’s Dixit Maria at the words “…Ecce ancilla Domini…” (“…Behold the handmaid of the Lord…”) in order to emphasize the beginning of Mary’s words.


The Magnificat is Mary’s longer prayer of joy and thanksgiving for this singular honor, with the traditional Doxology (“Gloria Patri…”) added to the end. During the Renaissance, many polyphonic settings of this prayer were composed. Palestrina’s Magnificat quarti toni is one of thirty-five settings of this prayer that he composed. This particular “Magnificat” was composed in alternatum style. In other words, new polyphonic music was composed for every other verse, alternating with ancient Gregorian chant for the remaining verses. In fact, the piece begins and ends with Gregorian chant verses. Like the two preceding shorter pieces, the point of imitation technique was also employed. This can easily be heard in the beginning of the first polyphonic movement, “…anima mea Dominum,” as the altos imitate the opening bass theme four notes higher, then the sopranos eight notes higher and finally, the tenor repeating the bass opening theme.


Christ’s Nativity (originally called Thy King’s Birthday) was written in 1931 when Britten was about 18 years old and in his second term at the Royal College of Music, London. The first section he composed was “Sweet was the Song,” followed by “Carol of King Cnut” and “New Prince, New Pomp.” The final two sections to be written were “Christ’s Nativity” and “Preparations.” Britten then re-ordered these five sections into this “Christmas Suite.” While individual sections were performed, the complete Suite was never given during the composer’s lifetime. The first complete performance of Christ’s Nativity was not given until 1991.


The opening section, “Christ’s Nativity,” begins with what sounds like approaching vocal fanfares calling the listener to “Awake!” The music then moves to a steady quick tempo as it commands the “glad heart” to “get up and sing.” Britten creates an exciting kaleidoscope of sound by shifting the melody among various voice parts and frequently changing the number of voice parts from 6 to 4 mixed vocal parts to 4-part women to 4-part men and back again to mixed voices. “Sweet was the Song” is a lovely solo for contralto in which the soloist is surrounded by an aural “halo” of 4-part women’s voices. “New Prince, New Pomp” opens with a restrained soprano solo with answers from the full choir. Interestingly, the soloist and choir sing two different texts, which do comment on each other. After this introduction, the main body of the movement begins in a fugue-like manner with the basses singing the opening choir text on the new main theme and the altos singing the soloist’s words to a counter melody. In the 2nd half of this movement, the soloist again enters with a new melody on the text, “Behold a silly tender babe…” sung against the choir. This section ends as it began, with just the soprano soloist. The Suite ends with “Carol of King Cnut,” another quick movement of kaleidoscopic sounds where the melody again is thrown from part to part, and the number of vocal parts varies frequently, inspiring us to “Sing joy the day!”


The remainder of our concert will present short pieces from England and Germany, and close with three traditional and familiar carols. We hope you’ll enter fully into the spirit of the season by joining Philomusica in singing these final carols.


Past Performances:

Sounds of Devotion - Spring 2006
Echoes of Mystery and Joy - Fall 2006

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