Music for Christmas | St. Lawrence University Chaplain's Office

Music for Christmas

Toccata on ‘Veni Emmanuel’ (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) 
Andrew Carter (b. 1939) 

Noël Suisse
Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772) 

Prelude on ‘In dulci jubilo’, BuxWV197
Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707) 

Fanfare on ‘Antioch’ Joy to the World
Gerre Hancock (1934-2012)
Attributed to George Frederick Handel (1685-1750) 
Arr. by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) 

Postlude on ‘Mendelssohn’ (Hark! the herald angels sing) 
David Willcocks (1919-2015) 

Toccata on 'Veni Emmanuel' (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

Prelude on 'In dulci jubilo,' BuxWV197

Postlude on 'Mendelssohn' (Hark! the herald angels sing)

Noël Suisse

Fanfair on 'Antioch' Joy to the World

In the fall of 2020 a student asked why I do not play much contemporary music on the 1926 Estey Organ. This question resulted in a dialogue about what contemporary means to today’s students. Does ‘contemporary’ only refer to what is on the radio on a Hard Rock station or does it also refer to music that is composed in the last one hundred years with a classical foundation? I appreciated the opportunity to engage with a student on this topic. All musicians face these questions as we prepare music for concerts and worship services. 

This concert is a partial answer to the student. The entire program is Christmas carols in unfamiliar settings. The composers are some of the pillars of the more classical world writing in their style with a twentieth century flavor. There are a few dissonances and different rhythms that engage stunningly with the traditional melodies of earlier times. 

Andrew Carter is a British composer, arranger, and conductor. When I met him back in the 80’s, he exhibited a passion for creative compositions. As I rehearsed the ‘Toccata on ‘Veni Emmanuel,’’ I kept remembering his admonition to make certain that the audience always must hear the melody, even amid a flurry of harmonies. 

Louis-Claude Daquin spent his life in Paris as a composer, harpsichordist and organist. His compositions are written so the organist can play very strictly or may employ the character of the time with improvisational techniques, e.g., trills and runs. Daquin was exposed to music at an early age and began playing by the age of six. Listen to the repeated sections. The basic notes are the same but I use the improvisatory technique to embellish the melody. 

We do not know for certain the year or the place of Dietrich Buxtehude’s birth. Today he is known as a Danish-German composer who had brilliant virtuoso skills on the organ, as well as renowned compositional skills. Bach traveled many miles to be able to hear Buxtehude perform on the organ. This setting of the carol ‘In dulci jubilo’ is set so that the composition teaches the congregation the melody before they join in singing. Most of us hear this carol as a dance. Buxtehude set it as a meditation. We all keep learning about how music may have been interpreted originally. 

Gerre Hancock was an American organist, improviser and composer based at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City for many years. There he was known as Master of the Choristers. In his retirement he moved to University of Texas at Austin where he and his wife Judy Hancock co-directed the Organ Performance and Sacred Music Centre. Many times I have sat in the sanctuary at St. Thomas Church listening to his improvisations and introductions to hymns. It was always a delight to hear how he arrived at the beginning of the hymn. The congregation ‘knew’ when it was time to sing. 

Sir David Valentine Willcocks, CBE, MC, was a well known composer, organist and conductor. Known for his association with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, he contributed beautiful choral and organ compositions for the Annual Lessons and Carols services. He was a master in allowing the melody to reign over interesting harmonic changes. His many broadcasts to the world gave all of us inspiration and repertoire over the years. Many of you will remember his setting of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful,’ which is used every year at St. Lawrence University for the Candlelight Service. His kindness and generosity of spirit is demonstrated in all of his music with his attention to detail. 

Thank you for sharing this time with me. Take good care during this holiday season. In January we will post a concert entitled ‘Music for Healing.’ The concert will feature César Franck’s ‘Choral in E Major.’ 

Sondra Goldsmith Proctor