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There Were Shepherds

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Welcome to Harmonia…I’m Angela Mariani.

So many Christmas songs are about a snowy scene by the fireplace: “Walking in a winter wonderland,” “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” “Let it snow!” and many others. But don’t pour the hot cocoa just yet--this hour on Harmonia, we’re going outside, not into the snow, but to the pastoral, and probably warm, scene of the nativity. Plus, beautiful polyphonic choral music from Renaissance Spain, from the 2019 harmonia mundi recording “A Spanish Nativity,” by Stile Antico.

[Let theme music run, fade at :59]

 

MUSIC TRACK

A Spanish Nativity
Stile Antico
harmonia mundi 2019 / B07Y3W9CWS
Alonso Lobo
Tr. 5 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Gloria (4:49)

We heard the Gloria from the Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria, performed by Stile Antico, from their 2019 recording A Spanish Nativity.

“And there were, in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

So reads Luke chapter 2 verses 1-14 in the King James version of the bible. This sentence, and variations of it, have inspired Christmas music since the Middle Ages. Here it is in Gregorian chant, or plainchant, from the gospel reading of Luke during Christmas Midnight Mass.

MUSIC TRACK

 

Luke chapter 2, verses 1-14,  as sung in plainchant. We heard Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge with the Choristers of King’s College Cambridge directed by Mary Berry

Here’s the same story, only in a completely different musical expression—the shape-note hymn “Sherburne,” sung by the United Sacred Harp Musical Association.

MUSIC TRACK

Daniel Read: Sherburne-When Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night
In Sweetest Union Join
United Sacred Harp Musical Association
CD Baby / Community Music School 2003
Daniel Read:
Sherburne (When Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night) (1:57)

 “When Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night,” by hymnodist Daniel Read, also known as the shape-note hymn “Sherburne,” from a CD called “In sweetest Union Join,” a historic recording of the United Sacred Harp Musical Association.

Sectarian divisions between Christians defined the Reformation—but ironically, Catholics and Protestants wrote a lot of music on the same topics. Anglican-born English composer Richard Dering converted to Catholicism while in Rome, but much of his music is still used by the Anglican and Episcopalian churches today. In “Quem vidistis, pastores,” shepherds are asked, “Who have you seen, shepherds? Speak: and tell us who has appeared on earth?” They answer, “We have seen the new-born child and a chorus of angels praising the Lord. Alleluia.” After that, we’ll hear motet “Pastores loquebantur” by Spanish Catholic composer Francisco Guerrero. Like Dering’s piece, Guerreo’s motet also depicts the nativity: Shepherds finding the baby Jesus in a manger along with Mary and Joseph.

MUSIC TRACK

A Renaissance Christmas
The Sixteen / dir. Harry Christophers
Coro 2018 / B07G1YNBXD
Tr. 9 Dering: Quem vidistis, pastores? (2:10)
Tr. 16 Guerrero: Pastores loquebantur (5:31)

“Pastores loquebantur,” by Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco Guerrero. Before that, we heard “Quem vidistis, pastores?” by English Tudor composer Richard Dering. The Sixteen were directed by Harry Christophers in their Coro 2018 release, A Renaissance Christmas.

Perhaps the most well-known musical setting of the nativity is from George Frideric Handel’s Lenten oratorio Messiah. Following the instrumental Pastoral “Pifa,” the quick succession of soprano recitative movements--starting with “There were shepherds” -- propels the listener towards the choral movement “Glory to God!”

MUSIC TRACK

Messiah: G.F. Händel
S:t Jacobs Kammarkör and Rebaroque / dir. Gary Graden
Naxos Sweden - Proprius Records 2017 / B076JCWT77
Tr. 13 Messiah Part I: Pifa (Pastoral Symphony) (2:37)
Tr. 14 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: There were Shepherds Abiding in the Field (:39)
Tr. 15 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: Ang the angel said unto them (:37)
Tr. 16 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: And suddenly there was with the angel (:17)
Tr. 17 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: Glory to God in the highest (1:57)

We heard the The Pifa from Handel’s Messiah, an instrumental movement sometimes called the Pastoral Symphony—not to be confused with Beethoven’s, which is something completely different—followed by the angel recitatives and the chorus “Glory to God.” The soprano was Kerstin Avemo. Gary Graden directed St Jacobs Kammarkör and Rebaroque.

 

You’re listening to Harmonia . . . I’m Angela Mariani.

 

Midpoint Break Music Bed:
The Concerto Köln Christmas Album, Edel Germany GmbH / Deutschlandradio 2011 / B006864EJS, Antonio Vivaldi, Tr. 19. Concerto for Strings in E Major, RV 270, “Il riposo” II. Adagio (:59 excerpt)

 

Welcome back! This hour, we’re listening to Christmas music for the nativity.

Handel wasn’t alone in his oratorio depiction of the pastoral scene. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio includes a different kind of instrumental pastoral movement.  Rather than a string-dominated texture, Bach’s pifa-like movement includes the bucolic sound of flutes and double reeds: traverso, oboe d’amore, oboe da caccia, and bassoon, as well as strings. Here is the Sinfonia from Part II of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

MUSIC TRACK 

J.S. Bach Christmas Oratorio
Mainz Bach Orchestra / Ralf Otto, cond.
Naxos 2018 / B07GWSQJL8
Johann Sebastian Bach
CD 1, Tr. 10 Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 Part II: Sinfonia (6:06)

The Sinfonia from Part II of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. The Mainz Bach Orchestra was directed by Ralf Otto.

“Pastorale,” “pifa,” “sinfonia,” and pieces that celebrate the nativity were not limited to short movements in large choral-orchestral works. Rather, starting with Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” many instrumental pieces were inspired by this theme. Mannheim composer Johann Stamitz’s “Sinfonia Pastorale” conveys outdoor elements at both slow and quick paces: a string-focused Larghetto, as well as a more sprightly Minuetto with horns and oboes.

MUSIC TRACK

The Concerto Köln Christmas Album
Concerto Köln
Edel Germany GmbH / Deutschlandradio 2011 / B006864EJS
Johann Stamitz
Tr. 8 Sinfonia Pastorale in D Major, Op. 4, No. 2 II. Larghetto (3:42)
Tr. 9 Sinfonia Pastorale in D Major, Op. 4, No. 2 III. Minuetto (2:09)

We heard the Larghetto and Minuetto, from the Sinfonia Pastorale in D Major by Johann Stamitz. Concerto Köln performed, on their recording The Concerto Köln Christmas Album. 

On our featured release this hour, we continue our nativity theme with a 2019 harmonia mundi recording by Stile Antico called, appropriately, A Spanish Nativity. Let’s begin with Tomas Luis de Victoria’s famous setting of the text “O Magnum Mysterium.”

MUSIC TRACK

A Spanish Nativity
Stile Antico
harmonia mundi 2019 / B07Y3W9CWS
Tomás Luis de Victoria:
Tr. 1 O Magnum Mysterium (4:27)

We heard Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” performed by Stile Antico, from their 2019 recording A Spanish Nativity. 

The emotional heart of this recording is Alonso Lobo’s Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria. All five movements of the mass are featured, interspersed with other works for Christmas and Epiphany from the Spanish Golden Age.

MUSIC TRACK

A Spanish Nativity
Stile Antico
harmonia mundi 2019 / B07Y3W9CWS
Alonso Lobo:
Tr. 9 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Sanctus – Benedictus (5:42)
Tr. 11 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Agnus Dei (2:52)

We heard the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei from Alonso Lobo’s Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria, from our featured release this hour, Stile Antico’s 2019 recording A Spanish Nativity. 

Harmonia is a production of WFIU. Support comes from Early Music America which strengthens and celebrates early music by supporting the people and organizations that perform, study, and find joy in it. …on the web at EarlyMusicAmerica-DOT-org. Additional resources come from the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

We welcome your thoughts about any part of this program, or about early music in general. Contact us at harmonia early music dot org.

The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Sarah Huebsch Schilling. 

Thanks to our studio engineer Michael Paskash, and our production team: Wendy Gillespie, Elizabeth Clark, LuAnn Johnson and John Bailey. I’m Angela Mariani, inviting you to join us again for the next edition of Harmonia.

[Theme music fades out]

Shepherds Bow painting c. 1650

From a Ukrainian religious painting, from an iconostasis, showing the Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1650. (Google Art Project, Wikimedia)

So many Christmas songs are about a snowy scene by the fireplace: “Walking in a winter wonderland,” “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” “Let it snow!” and many others. But don’t pour the hot cocoa just yet--this hour on Harmonia, we’re going outside, not into the snow, but to the pastoral, and probably warm, scene of the nativity. Plus, beautiful polyphonic choral music from Renaissance Spain, from the 2019 harmonia mundi recording “A Spanish Nativity,” by Stile Antico.

PLAYLIST

News Cutaway:
A Spanish Nativity
Stile Antico
harmonia mundi 2019 / B07Y3W9CWS
Alonso Lobo
Tr. 5 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Gloria (4:49)

Segment A:
The Ceremony of the Shepherds and Midnight Mass
Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, Choristers of King's College Cambridge / Dir. Mary Berry
Herald Records 2016 (rerelease of 1995 recording) / B01NBY4MVY
[Gregorian Chant]
Tr. 11 Christmas Midnight Mass: Gospel: Luke 2: 1-14 (4:13)

Daniel Read: Sherburne-When Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night
In Sweetest Union Join
United Sacred Harp Musical Association
CD Baby / Community Music School 2003
Daniel Read:
Sherburne (When Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night) (1:57)

A Renaissance Christmas
The Sixteen / dir. Harry Christophers
Coro 2018 / B07G1YNBXD
Tr. 9 Dering: Quem vidistis, pastores? (2:10)
Tr. 16 Guerrero: Pastores loquebantur (5:31)

Messiah: G.F. Händel
S:t Jacobs Kammarkör and Rebaroque / dir. Gary Graden
Naxos Sweden - Proprius Records 2017 / B076JCWT77
Tr. 13 Messiah Part I: Pifa (Pastoral Symphony) (2:37)
Tr. 14 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: There were Shepherds Abiding in the Field (:39)
Tr. 15 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: Ang the angel said unto them (:37)
Tr. 16 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: And suddenly there was with the angel (:17)
Tr. 17 Messiah Part I: Accompanied Recitative: Glory to God in the highest (1:57)

Theme Music Bed: Ensemble Alcatraz, Danse Royale, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 [ASIN: B000005J0B], T. 12 La Prime Estampie Royal

:59 Midpoint Break Music Bed: The Concerto Köln Christmas Album, Edel Germany GmbH / Deutschlandradio 2011 / B006864EJS, Antonio Vivaldi, Tr. 19. Concerto for Strings in E Major, RV 270, “Il riposo” II. Adagio (1:01)

Segment B:
J.S. Bach Christmas Oratorio
Mainz Bach Orchestra / Ralf Otto, cond.
Naxos 2018 / B07GWSQJL8
Johann Sebastian Bach
CD 1, Tr. 10 Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 Part II: Sinfonia (6:06)

The Concerto Köln Christmas Album
Concerto Köln
Edel Germany GmbH / Deutschlandradio 2011 / B006864EJS
Johann Stamitz
Tr. 8 Sinfonia Pastorale in D Major, Op. 4, No. 2 II. Larghetto (3:42)
Tr. 9 Sinfonia Pastorale in D Major, Op. 4, No. 2 III. Minuetto (2:09)

Featured Release:
A Spanish Nativity
Stile Antico
harmonia mundi 2019 / B07Y3W9CWS
Tomás Luis de Victoria:
Tr. 1 O Magnum Mysterium (4:27)
Alonso Lobo:
Tr. 9 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Sanctus – Benedictus (5:42)
Tr. 11 Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria: Agnus Dei (2:52)

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