Fall 2014
The Muse of Midwinter: Carols and an anthem from England

Celebrate Oriana's Twentieth Anniversary Season with us!

Read a review of this program at The Boston Musical Intelligencer.


Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) 
 A Ceremony of Carols

with Franziska Huhn, harp

This setting by Benjamin Britten of nine carols -- some of anonymous medieval origin, some from the 16th century -- is one of the most popular Christmas works of all time. The harp is integral to the work: each carol has a sparkling harp accompaniment; the harp accompanies the unison Gregorian chant that begins and ends the work; and the harp has a solo that is an imaginative variation of that chant. The work's origin is interesting: In 1942, as Britten was returning to England from the USA by crossing the submarine-infested Atlantic aboard a Swedish freighter, the ship docked at Halifax, NS, where Britten found in a bookstore a copy of The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, edited by the English novelist Gerald Bullett. During the crossing he selected seven of the poems that were carol texts, and set them for treble voices and harp. These were performed in December 1942, after which Britten revised his carol set by adding two more carols, the Gregorian processional and recessional, the harp interlude, and the name A Ceremony of Carols. This revised version, first performed in December 1943, became so popular that the composer Julius Harrison was invited to transcribe the work for full choir of mixed voices. It is this transcription of Britten's delightful Christmas music, published in 1955, that Oriana sings in these concerts.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) 
Let God Arise

This anthem, being a setting of verses from Psalm 68 and Psalm 76, is not a Christmas piece. But the words of these Psalms, though they begin rather defiantly, express the kind of joyfulness and praise that are associated with the Nativity season. (Some passages of Let God Arise even foreshadow passages in Messiah, not to be written until twenty-four years later!) From 1717 to 1719, Handel (who had migrated from his native Germany to Italy, then briefly back to Germany, then to England) was composer-in-residence at Cannons, the Middlesex estate of James Brydges, the Duke of Chandos. There, for use in the Duke's divine services, Handel wrote twelve Psalm settings for choral and solo voices, with instrumental accompaniment -- the Chandos Anthems -- which became the musical groundwork for his future oratorios. In 1719 Handel returned to London, where he ensured a steady flow of operas for the Royal Academy of Music. In 1726, borrowing from his Chandos Anthems, he transcribed and revised Number 11, Let God Arise, for the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace; it was performed there in January of that year. It is this version of Let God Arise -- a Chandos Anthem redux -- that Oriana performs in these concerts, accompanied by an ensemble of instruments of Handel's era.

Three carols by British composers before Benjamin Britten, and three carols by a British composer after him:

Peter Warlock (1894-1930)
Benedicamus Domino  (or Let us Bless the Lord)

William Byrd (1539 or 40-1623)
Songs of Sundrie Natures. Earthly Tree

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
A Spotless Rose

John Rutter (1945-)
Wexford Carol; Angels’ Carol; What Sweeter Music


8 pm Friday, Dec. 5, 2014
University Lutheran Church
66 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA

5 pm Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014
Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church
155 Powder House Blvd.
Somerville, MA

5 pm Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014
First Lutheran Church of Boston
299 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA