Notes on the Music

1. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (arr. Lee Poquette)
These familiar words, written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, were set to a Mendelssohn chorale in 1856 by W.H. Cummings. After the Salvation Army was founded in 1880, the tune became a favorite of the Army bands, whose music and charity were familiar features of the London Christmas season.

2. Deck the Hall (arr. Keith Snell)
This New Year’s Eve carol, “Nos Galen,” comes from Wales. In the 1997 Christmas Revels production in Washington, it accompanied the opening entrance of the chorus as they proceeded to decorate the hall.

3. French Carol (Il est né) (arr. Keith Snell)
“Il est né” (“He Is Born”) is one of the most beloved chants de Noël in France. The traditional tune is from the 17th century, though the lyrics were added in the mid 1800’s. This brass arrangement highlights the versatility of the brass quintet by contrasting the extreme high range of the piccolo trumpet with the very low tones of the bass trombone.

4. I Saw Three Ships (arr. Luther Henderson)
“I Saw Three Ships” is an English carol dating from the 17th century. The song refers to the three ships that bore the Wise Men to the manger in Bethlehem.

5. Wexford Carol (arr. Robert Posten)
“The Wexford Carol” is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol originating in County Wexford. It is one of the oldest extant Christmas carols in the European tradition. For many years, it was felt that only low voices should sing its haunting melody. Following this tradition, the Washington Revels Brass performance places the melody with the horn and trombones.

6. Riu Riu Chiu (arr. Robert Posten)
The nonsense syllables “riu riu chiu” represent a nightingale’s song and were a traditional call by Spanish shepherds when guarding their flocks. The song’s lyrics refer to God keeping the wolf from the lamb. This music is part of a mid-16th century collection called the Cancionero de Upsala after the university library in Sweden that holds the only surviving original.

7. Fum, Fum, Fum (arr. Betsy Branch, Portland Revels)
This 16th century Catalan Christmas carol is usually called “Fum, Fum, Fum” in English. The “fum” sounds may imitate the sound of a drum or guitar.

8. Estampie (arr. Charlie Pilzer)
Dating from 1325, this estampie comes from a fragmentary manuscript known as the Robertsbridge
, which preserves the earliest known keyboard music.

9. Vive le roy (Josquin des Prez)
Josquin des Prez (1451-1521) is generally accepted as one of the first great composers. Josquin
served eight years in the papal court in Rome and sang in the Sistine Chapel Choir. “Vive le roy,” written about 1498, is an instrumental chanson and was probably a fanfare for Louis XII of France.

10. Psalm 148 (Mogens Pederson; arr. George Emlen)
Mogens Pederson (c. 1583–1623), Denmark’s most important composer before Buxtehude, was a student of Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice in 1600. He composed this five-part motet as a setting of Psalm 148.

11. Angels We Have Heard on High (arr. David S. Winkler)
The lyrics of this popular Christmas carol come from the traditional French carol “Les anges dans nos campagnes” (“The Angels in the Countryside”). In 1862, Bishop James Chadwick provided the English translation which is used today and sung to the tune “Gloria” by Edward Shippen Barnes.

12. & 13. O, Little Town of Bethlehem / Away in a Manger (arr. C. Collier Jones)
Early in his career C. Collier Jones composed a ground-breaking work for the brass quintet which helped establish the ensemble in the world of chamber music as it was searching for a foundation of substantial repertoire. Jones disappeared from the classical music world but resurfaced in the 1990’s in Rockport, MA, where he was firmly established as a successful lobster fisherman. He wrote these simple, beautiful arrangements for some of his friends in nearby Gloucester, MA.

14. Ocho Kandelikas (Flory Jagoda; arr. Tina Chancey)
The Menorah has nine branches, one for each day of Hanukkah and one for a candle that can provide light when the others are not lit. The refrain of this song, “Many parties will be held, with joy and pleasure,” celebrates the lighting of the eight symbolic candles, and its three verses give us some sense of the nature of the festival. Flory Jagoda composed this popular piece, and the arrangement for brass is by Tina Chancey of Trio Sefardi.

15. Ding Dong! Merrily on High (arr. Luther Henderson)
This 16th century tune comes from a book of dances by Jehan Tabourot. It wasn’t until 1924, when the present words were written by George Woodward, that it became a popular Christmas carol.

16. Lord of the Dance (arr. Brian Holmes for Revels, Inc.)
Set to the simple tune of the Shaker song “Simple Gifts,” modern lyrics are combined with traditional
morris dance steps in this favorite audience participation piece of Revels performances. Brian Holmes wrote this arrangement for Revels, Inc. to be used in the annual Revels performances across the country.

17. & 18. Two English Renaissance Pieces (arr. Robert Birch)
“Mother I Will Have a Husband” is by Thomas Vautor (1590 – 1625) and was published in 1619 in Songs of Diverse Ayres and Natures. “I Always Loved to Call My Lady Rose” by Henry Lichfield (also Lichfild) was published in 1613 in The First Set of Madrigals of Five Parts, Apt for Both Viols and Voices.

19. Dormi, Dormi, O Bel Bambin (arr. Benno Fritz)
“Dormi, Dormi, O Bel Bambin” (“Sleep, Sleep, My Lovely Child”) is an arrangement of the traditional Corsican Christmas lullaby of the same name. The text describes the Virgin Mary singing the baby Jesus to sleep. Benno Fritz is a member of the Washington Revels Brass and wrote this arrangement especially for this recording.

20. Ascendit Deus (Jacobus Gallus)
Jacobus Gallus (1550 – 1591) was a late Renaissance composer of Slovenian ethnicity. According
to Gustave Reese in Music in the Renaissance, Gallus was born Jakob Petelin and widely used the names Jacobus Gallus and Jacob Handl, the Italian and German equivalents of his last name, meaning “rooster.” Gallus composed over 500 works for use at all liturgical occasions in the church year. His wide-ranging, eclectic style blended archaism with the musical fashion of his own time.

21. Somerset Wassail (arr. Brian Holmes for Revels, Inc.)
The word “wassail” comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “woes hal,” an everyday greeting that can be translated as “be healthy.” The phrase was eventually contracted into one word and came to refer to the act of toasting someone’s health. Wassailers would travel from house to house, singing with a “wassail cup,” which their hosts were expected to fill. Cecil Sharp collected this folk song in the early 1900’s from the Drayton wassailers in Somerset.

22. Joy to the World (arr. Ken Barker)
The words to this familiar carol were written in 1719 by the “father of English hymnody,” Isaac
Watts. Although the original score said “from George Frederick Handel,” scholars who have studied the issue believe that none of the music actually is Handel’s. The tune is also known as “Antioch,” after the Syrian city where believers were first called “Christians.”

23. & 24. Two Appalachian Tunes (arr. Jared Denhard)
“Oh Shenandoah” is a traditional American folk song of uncertain origin, dating at least to the early 19th century. Many theories exist as to the original interpretation of this song, including telling of a pioneer’s nostalgia for the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia, or of a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home in Virginia. Likewise, the origin of the tune “Old Joe Clark” is unknown but its popularity grew throughout the 19th century until it was one of the most frequently heard fiddle tunes in the American Southwest in the early 1900’s and it remains a favorite today.

25. 26. 27. & 28. Elizabethan Dance Suite (Anthony Holborne)
The Fairie Round / Pavan / Heigh Ho Holiday / The Widowes Myte
The pavan, often danced in the Renaissance courts of Europe, is a gentle dance in duple time, where pairs of dancers step gracefully. It is often paired with the galliard, which is a lively, athletic dance in triple meter, accented by leaps and turns. This pavan and accompanying galliards were written by Anthony Holborne for the court of Elizabeth I. “The Fairie Round”from this suite was included on the Voyager Golden Record, copies of which were sent into space aboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes in 1977, as a representation of human culture and achievement to any who might find it.

29. The Silver Swan (Orlando Gibbons)
“The Silver Swan” is probably the most famous madrigal by Orlando Gibbons. The exquisite beauty of Gibbons’ text and setting have insured the work’s popularity four centuries after its original publication in 1612.

30. The Boar’s Head Carol (arr. Elizabeth Posten)
This feasting carol has been sung at Queen’s College, Oxford, ever since the 17th century. It accompanies the arrival and entrance of the elaborately prepared culinary triumph, the boar’s head, as it is brought into the dining hall.

31. Hosanna (Christian Gregor)
The “Hosanna Anthem” by Christian Gregor, (1723-1801) is an important hymn in the Moravian church and is sung traditionally in Advent or on Palm Sunday. It is a call and response hymn which in this arrangement features a trumpet leading the brass in a cheerful conversation.

32. While Shepherds Watched (Thomas Clark; arr. Dave Townsend)
Published in 1805, this popular tune is by Thomas Clark, who composed twenty-eight books of psalmody – psalm texts set to music for congregational singing. This arrangement is set to the tune of “Cranbrook,” which is also the tune for the popular Yorkshire song “On Ilkley Moor Baht’at’.”

33. Domaredansen (Now Falls the Snow) (arr. Robert Posten)
This traditional Swedish folksong was performed in 1996 by the Washington Revels Brass as they led the cast of the Revels out of Lisner Auditorium at the conclusion of the celebration of the winter solstice in the European Northlands.

34. We Wish You a Merry Christmas (arr. John Iveson)
This familiar carol comes from England’s West Country and became a favorite sentiment of
the Christmas card. Like the Christmas tree, it was introduced during the English Victorian era.

35. Silent Night (Franz Gruber; arr. Wilfred Bob Roberts)
This familiar carol is sung throughout the Nordic countries on the eve of Christmas. The tune was written in 1818 by Franz Gruber to the words of Joseph Mohr, priest of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria.

36. The Twelve Days of Christmas (arr. Ken Pulig)
This audience favorite is a traditional English “forfeit” carol – so called because people who sang at the wrong time were expected to forfeit a candy or a kiss (or sometimes, in a pub, a round of drinks) to their neighbors.

37. Hodie Christus Natus Est (Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck)
This work was composed by the great 16th century Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Sweelinck was a master improviser renowned for his organ playing. His work earned him the honorary title “the Orpheus of Amsterdam” for his ability to charm all living things with his music.

38. The Sussex Mummers’ Carol (arr. Brian Holmes for Revels, Inc.)
This traditional carol is sung as an ending to the folk play in Horsham, Sussex. In all ten American cities where Revels is produced annually, this carol is sung with the audience at the conclusion of each performance. The brass arrangement is by Brian Holmes, with a descant and final verse harmonization by Ralph Vaughan Williams.