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Traditions Series: The New Year

This week, the Harmonia Traditions Series explores the end of a year and beginning of a new one. Plus, a new release of music by Boismortier.

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stained glass window with the baby Jesus

Photo: Lawrence OP

A 19th-century depiction of the Circumcision of Christ by A.W.N. Pugin for Bolton Abbey (North Yorkshire, England).

When we think of New Year’s Day, many traditional images come to mind: the sights and sounds of fireworks, the counting down of the final seconds before midnight, and the numerous parties held in celebration of the ending of the year and beginning of a new one. These are among the many events that take place around the world in order to observe an important day in our lives.

If we look back at the last couple of millennia, not much has changed by way of celebrating January 1st.

An unusual kind of New Year’s celebration occurred in church during the middle ages. January 1st was better known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. In France, the normal celebration of mass by the clergy was turned upside down. Young people were chosen to take role of clergy and parody the Church’s rites and customs. Presided over by sub-deacons, the semi-dramatic event was a festival known as The Feast of Fools, which traced its origins to pre-Christian pagan rituals.

Baude Cordier and Guillaume Dufay were two composers from the late-middle ages who wrote songs typical of their day, which included ones in praise of January 1st.

The German baroque is replete with celebratory music for January 1st, no place more so than the churches of Lutheran and Catholic traditions.

Our new release of the week comes from the Dorian/Sono Luminus label. Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz is the featured performer in Boismortier’s complete concertos for five flutes, op. 13.

Here’s a video of Stephen Schultz performing the first movement from Boismortier’s Concerto in D major, op. 15, no. 3:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZPC4Ew7NXQ

The music heard in this episode was performed by Körnerscher Sing-Verein, Clemencic Consort, Gothic Voices, Ensemble Unicorn, and The Monteverdi Choir.

Music Heard On This Episode

Gottfried August Homilius: From Kantate zum Neujahrstag Wünschet Jerusalem Glück
Körnerscher Sing-Verein and the Dresdner Instrumental-Concert/Peter Kopp — Cantatas II: Christmas in the Dresden Frauenkirche (CV , 2005)
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Gottfried August Homilius: From Kantate zum Neujahrstag Wünschet Jerusalem Glück
Körnerscher Sing-Verein and the Dresdner Instrumental-Concert/Peter Kopp — Cantatas II: Christmas in the Dresden Frauenkirche (CV , 2005)
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Anonymous: From La messe des ânes et des buveurs
Clemencic Consort/Rene Clemencic — La Fête de L’âne (HMC , 1980)
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Baude Cordier: Ce jour de l’an
Gothic Voices/Christopher Page — Lancaster and Valois: French and English music, 1350-1420 (Hyperion , 1992)
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Guillaume Dufay: Ce jour de l’an voudray joye mener
Ensemble Gilles Binchois/Dominque Vellard — Ballades, Rondeaux, and Lamentation (Harmonic , 1987)
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Guillaume Dufay: Ce jour de l’an
Ensemble Unicorn/Michael Posch — Chansons (Naxos , 1996)
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Gottfried August Homilius: From Kantate zum Neujahrstag Wünschet Jerusalem Glück
Körnerscher Sing-Verein and the Dresdener Instrumental-Concert/Peter Kopp — Cantatas II: Christmas in the Dresden Frauennkirche (CV , 2005)
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G.P. Telemann: From Cantata no. 1 – For New Year’s Day, TWV 1:715
Various — Harmonischer Gottesdienst (Capriccio , 1997)
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J.S. Bach: From Cantata Singet dem Herr nein neues lied, BWV 190
Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner — Christmas Choral Music (BBC Music, 2007)
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Traditional: From God Send You a Happy New Year – Farewell to Christmas
Sneak’s Noyse/Roddy Skeaping — English Folk Carols: Christmas Now is Drawing Near (Saydisc , 1988)
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Leopold Kozeluch : Auld lang syne
Scottish Early Music Consort/Christopher Field — Robert Burns (Chandos , 1988)
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J.B. Boismortier: From Concerto in D major, op. 15, no. 3
Stephen Schultz, baroque flute — Concertos for Five Flutes (Dorian , 2008)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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