Notes on the Music

1. Sing and Rejoice (trad.)

This circular canon is among the most popular, featured everywhere from faith-based hymnals to the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook "singing the living tradition." While the melody follows a simple contour and chord progression, the layered sound achieved through performance in canon is nonetheless rich and complex. Similar rounds can be found in music of every culture and time period, a further testament to the form's accessibility and beautiful sound.

Washington Revels Chorus

2. Ocho kandelikas (Flory Jagoda / arr. Tina Chancey)

Flory Jagoda is renowned for repopularizing the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) repertoire. She preserves the musical tradition not only by passing it to her children and students, but through public performance and published songbooks. As 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, Therefrain of this song celebrates the lighting of the eight symbolic candles. The three verses, meanwhile, give us some sense of the nature of the festival. “Many parties will be held, with joy and pleasure.” Flory Jagoda wrote this popular song, and the arrangement for mixed chorus and brass is by Tina Chancey of Trio Sephardi.

Washington Revels Chorus & Brass

3. There Are Angels Hovering ’Round (trad.)

This American hymn can be found in hymnals dating back to the 1840s. Lucy Simpson, a singer of ballads and collector of old hymnals, who had a particular gift for finding and recirculating many wonderful hymns long forgotten, resurrected this song back into popular folk-repertoire. It has since been performed and recorded by many musicians, from Peter and Mary Alice Amidon to Garrison Keillor. It is in the call and response style, with a solo voice introducing each verse, followed by a response and refrain from the chorus.

Washington Revels Chorus          Mairi Breen Rothman, soloist

4. The Angel Band (trad.)

5. Turkey Run Away (trad.)

6. Singing in the Land (trad.)

Ruth Crawford Seeger, a contemporary American composer, first became interestedin folk songs while teaching piano to the children of Carl Sandburg. She later worked with folklorist Alan Lomax collecting and transcribing folk songs for the Library of Congress. That work, and singing folk songs with her children, led to her championing the use of folk songs in public education and the home. From her American Folksongs for Christmas, we have selected “Angel Band,” “Turkey Run Away” and “Singing in the Land."

Washington Revels Children        Roustabout String Band

7. Bethlehem (William Billings)

Originally a tanner by trade and lacking formal training in music, William Billings (1746-1800) is regarded as the father of American choral music and hymnody, with over 340 choral works to his name. “Bethlehem” is an example of a ‘fuging tune’ as developed by composers of the New England singing school tradition. All parts start together in rhythmic and harmonic unity in the "A section" before enterine into a fuging section. In the fugue, each of the four voices in turn presents the theme or a slight variant. The result is an intricate, multi-layered sound that then resolves into homophony near the final cadence.

Washington Revels Chorus

8. Lamma bada yatathanna (trad.)

“Who can answer my lament for love and distress but the graceful one, the queen of beauty?” asks this traditional Arabic love song. This song is an example of muwashshah, a form of Islamic song and poetry especially popular in North Africa and the near-East. The form emerged in 9th-century Andalusia, spread to North Africa and the East, and was also used by some Sephardic poets. As performed here, a muwashshah typically features alternation between a lightly accompanied solo singer and chorus.

Washington Revels Chorus       Rachid Halihal, singer & oud
Elisabeth R. Myers, singer         David Buchbut, riq

9. Shalom chaverim / Assalam wa aleikum (trad.)

“Shalom Chaverim” is a traditional Hebrew expression of parting. We have expanded the traditional round to include Arabic words, written by Daphna Mor and Rachid Halihal of Layali El Andalus. The combination of the Hebrew and Arabic texts presents a unified round for peace.

Washington Revels Chorus

10. O rubor sanguinis (Hildegarde von Bingen / arr. Elizabeth Fulford)

Hildegarde von Bingen (1098-1179) holds a special place in music history as one of the most consequential female composers. this homage to St. Ursula of Cologne evokes the image of red blood flowing between Heaven and Earth: O redness of blood, who have flowed down from that height which divinity touched: you are the flower that the winter of the serpent’s breath never withered. The influential German abbess also wrote major works on theology and natural history as well as poetry and plays, and was an advisor to bishops, popes and kings.

Maud Taber Thomas, Elisabeth R. Myers, & Shauna Kreidler Michels, singers
Doug Baumgardt, Jane Bloodworth, & Elizabeth Fulford, handbells

11. Sun Turning (trad.)

This traditional English street chant evokes the cycle of the seasons, "from Yule to Yule!"

Washington Revels Children       H. Katherine Toton, music director

12. Haec dies (William Byrd)

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” begins this jubilant psalm setting by William Byrd (1543-1622) from his Cantiones Sacrae. Named a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Byrd enjoyed the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I despite his open Catholicism. He became such a favorite that in 1575 she granted him and his mentor Thomas Tallis exclusive license to print and publish music in England.

Washington Revels Chorus         Washington Revels Brass

13. Kalevalan alkusanat (Veljo Tormis)

“I am driven by my longing and my understanding urges that I should commence my singing and begin my recitation. I will sing the people's legends and the ballads of the nation,” begins the Finnish epic poem, Kalevala. This choral setting, by Estonian composer Veljo Tormis, employs the traditional metre and tune of the Kalevala chant, sung here by soloists and chorus in an antiphonal call and response. Tormis’ works are strongly connected to the heritage of the Finno-Ugrian peoples, connecting the elements of runic song to his own contemporary musical language.

Washington Revels Chorus
Greg Lewis, Jim Lazar, John Pomeranz & Will Wurzel, singers

14. Yallibrui (Ludvig Mathias Lindeman)

According to legend,Yallibrui was the golden bridge of nails and spears spanning the
river Yall, over which passed the damned on their way to hell. This folk song comes
from the Vision of Olaf Åsteson (Draumkvede), dating from the 13th century. One
Christmas Eve, Olaf Åsteson fell into a deep sleep that lasted 13 days, during which he
dreamed that he traveled through heaven and hell. This setting is by Ludvig Mathias
Lindeman who, from 1840-1867, traveled through Norway to collect more than 2,000
folk songs.

Washington Revels Chorus

15. The Winter (trad.)

Collected in North Carolina, this song is documented in Slave Songs of the United States, published in 1867. Like many African-American songs and spirituals, “The Winter” had a double meaning – not just the changing seasons, but also the hope that the ‘winter’ of slavery would soon pass away. We learned this traditional song from our friends from New Bern, North Carolina, where Jonkonnu was first celebrated in the early 1800s.

Washington Revels Jubilee Voices      Andrea Jones Blackford, director
Harold Blackford, singer

16. Tafta hindi (trad.)

“Tafta Hindi” (Indian taffeta) is an Arabic children’s song about sharing treasure.

Washington Revels Children       H. Katherine Toton, music director

17. Cobham (William Billings)

Published in William Billings’ final tune-book, The Continental Harmony (1794), “Cobham” is a psalm-tune set to words by Isaac Watts, the great English writer whose Psalms of David Imitated provided many texts for Billings and others.

Washington Revels Gallery Voices      Elizabeth Fulford, director
Rhianna Victoria Nissen, Doug Baumgardt & Elisabeth R. Myers, soloists

18. Deh venitene pastori (Lucrezia de’ Medici)

Written by Lucrezia Tornabuoni de’ Medici, this 15th-century laude tells the story of the shepherds coming to see the newborn baby Jesus Christ, who shines brighter than the sun.

Women of the the Washington Revels Chorus
Shauna Kreidler Michels, Jane Bloodworth & Maud Taber Thomas, soloists

19. La me nòna (trad.)

This game song has been used as a teaching device for children, who would play clapping games in rhythm. Its words are derived from the well-known ballad “La bevanda sonnifera,” which was first published in 1863 and has since been included in many song collections. Roberto Leydi, a major ethnomusicologist in Italy, published “La me nòna” and information about it in the 1973 collection I Canti Popolari Italiani. The song preceded and shares its melody with a popular World War II Italian resistance song, “Bella ciao.”

Washington Revels Children       H. Katherine Toton, music director

20. Here’s a Health to All Good Lasses (trad.)

This short glee—a song in parts for men—was derived from a part-song by Pietro Guglielmi (1728–1804). A favorite of London “Song & Supper” clubs, it found its way into rural tradition in Oxfordshire and Dorset.

Men of the Washington Revels Chorus     Alden Michels, soloist

21. A Cup of Wine (trad.)

This three-part round uses text spoken by the character Silence in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

Washington Revels Chorus
Peter Noone, Grace VanderVeer, Jane Bloodworth, and Will Wurzel, soloists

22. Great Things (arr. Dave Townsend)

This poignant poem of Hardy’s is set to “The Merry Month of May,” a traditional tune found in his family’s manuscripts. The arrangement is by Dave Townsend.

Washington Revels Chorus       Rachel Carlson, soloist

23. Siete modos de guisar las berenjenas (trad.)

This Sephardic song from Greece celebrates the many ways to prepare eggplant; each verse recounts a different recipe, though the chorus repeats Uncle Cerasi’s view that however it’s cooked, eggplant is always best consumed with a glass of wine. Eggplant came to Al Andalus with the Arabs, but it was the Jews who popularized it throughout Europe.

Washington Revels Chorus        Washington Revels Brass
Guenevere Spilsbury & Will Wurzel, soloists

24. Remember, O Thou Man (Thomas Ravenscroft)

Thomas Ravenscroft (c.1582-1635) published this “suffering ballad” in his Melismata and titled it “A Christmas Caroll.” Ravenscroft composed many rounds and catches and compiled collections of British folk music.

Rachel Carlson, Shauna Kreidler Michels, Alden Michels & Michael Lewallen, soloists

25. Emerald Stream (Seth Houston)

Seth Houston, a participant in Village Harmony, a central Vermont youth chorus, became so inspired by shape-note music that he tried his own hand at composition. He wrote “Emerald Stream” in 1991, at age 17, while canoeing in northern Quebec. His inspiration came from the steady current of the river, the wind, his voice and a penny whistle.

Washington Revels Chorus

26. A lieta vita / Sing We and Chant It (Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi)

This five-part vocal balletto, or dance song, by Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi (c. 1554–1609) was so popular that Thomas Morley later used it as the basis for his well-known madrigal “Sing We and Chant It.” It was later transformed into the famous German chorale tune “In Dir ist Freude.” Johann Sebastian Bach used that tune as the basis for a chorale prelude of the same name. We use both Gastoldi’s and Morley’s words here.

Washington Revels Chorus       Washington Revels Brass
Rachel Carlson, soloist

Photographs by Sheppard Ferguson