This December, one of New York’s preeminent vocal ensembles, TENET, brings light and joy to one of the longest nights of the year in a heartfelt program of intimate carols to celebrate the season. A vocal quintet joins together with lute to perform poignant and lovely renditions of carols — both new and old — with some surprising arrangements to warm the heart. The Rosen House, decorated for the holidays, will be open from 4:00pm for self-guided tours and complimentary refreshments.
Martha Cluver & Jolle Greenleaf, soprano
Kate Maroney, alto
Owen McIntosh, tenor
Andrew Padgett, bass
Hank Heijink, lute
Jolle Greenleaf, Artistic Director
Traditional English Angelus ad Virginem
Parry Welcome Yule
Sweelinck Hodie Christus natus est
Traditional Basque The Infant King (arr. Willcocks)
Anonymous A Toye
Traditional Irish Irish Carol
Anonymous There is no rose, (15th century)
Anonymous Veni mater gracie/Dou way Robin, (14th century)
Goss See amid the winter’s snow
Traditional English Sussex Carol
Laurencini of Rome A Fantasy
Traditional Italian Tu scendi dalle stelle
Wexford Carol Good people all
Hassler Cantate Domino
Vaughan Williams Wither’s Rocking Hymn
Cornelius Three Kings from Persian lands afar
Lawson Lullay my liking
dello Joio Lullaby for the Christ Child
Traditional French Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle
Praetorius Es ist ein Ros
Bach O Jesulein süss
Traditional English What child is this? (arr. Stainer)
Traditional English The old year now has fled away
Martha Cluver & Jolle Greenleaf, sopranos
Kate Maroney, alto
Owen McIntosh, tenor
Andrew Padgett, bass
Hank Heijink, lute
Jolle Greenleaf, Artistic Director
Preeminent New York City-based early music ensemble TENET celebrates its ninth season in 2017-18. Under Artistic Director Jolle Greenleaf, TENET has won acclaim for its innovative programming, virtuosic singing and command of repertoire that spans the Middle Ages to the present day. Highlights of recent seasons include performances of J.S. Bach’s motets, a three-year cycle of Carlo Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories, a medieval survey series called The Sounds of Time led by Robert Mealy, and original theatrical performances highlighting works composed by, for, and about women in 17th century Italy. Renowned for their interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, TENET’s distinguished soloists have been praised for their pristine one-voice-to-a-part singing “to an uncanny degree of precision” (The Boston Globe). TENET sponsors the highly praised Green Mountain Project, giving annual performances of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, as well as other Vespers that have been newly reconstructed by the project’s musical director, Scott Metcalfe, including music by Monteverdi, Giovanni Gabrieli, Antoine Charpentier, and their contemporaries.
Vocalist and Roomful of Teeth member Martha Cluver has been praised by The New York Times for her “fluid, dark-hued,” and “soulful” soprano voice. As a soloist, she has performed and recorded with ensembles such as Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic, Remix Ensemble, Prague Modern, Rebel Baroque, ICE, ACME, Fifth House Ensemble, and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Chamber music collaborations include groups such as Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, So Percussion, NEXUS, Axiom, Trio Mediaeval, Novus New York, Dogs of Desire, Wordless Music Orchestra, and TENET.
Soprano Jolle Greenleaf is one of today’s foremost figures in the field of early music. Ms. Greenleaf has been hailed by The New York Times as a “golden soprano” and “a major force in the New York early music-scene.” She is a celebrated interpreter of the music of Bach, Buxtehude, Handel, Purcell and, most notably, Claudio Monteverdi. She has performed as a soloist in venues throughout the U.S., Scandinavia, Europe, and Central America for important presenters including Vancouver Early Music Festival, Denmark’s Vendsyssel Festival, Costa Rica International Music Festival, Puerto Rico’s Festival Casals, Utrecht Early Music Festival, at Panama’s National Theater, and San Cristobal, the Cathedral in Havana, Cuba.
Lutenist Hank Heijink (pronounced Hey-ink) has played all over the world with leading ensembles such as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, European Union Baroque Orchestra, Orchestre d’Auvergne, TENET, Mark Morris Dance Group, and the Wooster Group, among others. He is in high demand as an accompanist on theorbo, lute, and guitar, and his playing has been described as “eloquent” (Wall Street Journal) and “deft and sensitive” (The New York Times). He can be heard on TENET’s recent CD A Feast for the Senses and on Green Mountain Project’s live recording of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. Mr. Heijink holds a performance degree from The Hague’s Royal Conservatory (the Netherlands), as well as a degree in computer science, and a PhD in social sciences. When not playing the lute, he writes software.
Recognized for “vibrant and colorful” singing (The New York Times) mezzo-soprano Kate Maroney’s recent soloist appearances include the Carmel Bach Festival, New York Baroque Incorporated, LA Opera, Lincoln Center Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Musica Sacra, Bach Collegium San Diego, Princeton Pro Musica, Bach Vespers Holy Trinity, Mark Morris Dance Group, Yale Choral Artists, American Opera Projects, Berkshire Bach Society, and Clarion. Kate has collaborated closely with composers Philip Glass, David Lang, Martin Bresnick, Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, Hannah Lash, Dominick Argento, Christopher Cerrone, Daron Hagen, Matthew Welch, Paola Prestini, Ted Hearne, Lisa Bielawa, and Scott Wheeler. She holds a D.M.A. from Eastman, degrees from SUNY Purchase and Yale, teaches at Mannes, and resides in Brooklyn with musician-husband Red Wierenga.
Described by The New York Times as a “lovely, tender high tenor” in one concert and “appropriately brash” in another, Owen McIntosh is widely known for the color and creativity he brings to his diverse career as a soloist and chamber musician. Recent solo engagements include the modern premiere of Aliotti’s oratorio Santa Rosalia with New York Baroque Incorporated, Bach’s St. John Passion with TENET, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Boston Baroque, Haydn’s Chamber opera L’isola Disabitata with the American Classical Orchestra, the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 with Apollo’s Fire and Green Mountain Project, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Grand Rapids Symphony, and a performance and Grammy nominated recording of il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with Boston Baroque.
Praised for his “powerful baritone and impressive vocal range” (Boston Music Intelligencer), bass-baritone and hurdy-gurdyist Andrew Padgett is an accomplished interpreter of both Baroque and medieval vocal and instrumental music. He has collaborated with early music luminaries such as Masaaki Suzuki, Nicholas McGegan, and Benjamin Bagby, and has been featured as a soloist in concert venues worldwide, including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, NYC, and the Esplanade Concert Hall in his hometown, Singapore. Andrew holds a B.S. in physics and an M.M. in voice from U.C. Santa Barbara, and an M.M. in early music, oratorio, and chamber ensemble from Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music. He is based in New York City, where he sings with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys under the direction of Daniel Hyde.
About the Music.
Program at a Glance
Today’s concert by the ensemble TENET salutes the Christmas season with music spanning near a thousand years and setting texts that are sometimes even older in origin. This banquet of festive music ranges from the medieval carols of France and England through the gorgeous polyphony of the Renaissance up to the newest seasonal treasures from our own time.
Celebrations during the declining daylight at the winter solstice go back thousands of years to well before the Christian Era. There seems to have been an especially strong need for this in Europe, where the shortness of these days was very pronounced and formerly there was little man-made light to brighten the nights. The Romans instituted the Festival of Saturnalia at the solstice in honor of Saturnus, the Roman god of agriculture, and gave each other boughs of holly and ivy, the only green leaves growing at this time. With their crops dying out in the frozen earth and the nights growing longer, Europeans of old feared the darkness and the evil spirits it might bring. Their winter solstice festivities with torches, songs, and dances helped drive away these fears and encouraged the return of the sun and fertility. With the coming of Christianity, early believers successfully grafted the celebration of Christ’s birth – not affixed already to any particular seasonal time – onto this already well-established time of feasting and merry-making.
By the Middle Ages, the singing of carols began accompanying the Christian festivities. Originally, the word “carol” was associated with songs that were also dances, usually done while holding hands in a circle. However, the Church frowned on such activities as more suitable for secular events and for centuries would not allow carols, even without dancing, to be sung in services. In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem The Romance of the Rose was one of the first to use the word in the English language.
Many of the carols we love most were the products of anonymous composers and poets springing up in countries all over Europe. Dating from early medieval times, “Angelus ad Virginum” is associated with the Advent Season beginning four weeks before Christmas: a time of preparation for Christians. This robust proclamatory song, often sung to drum accompaniment, tells the story of the Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that, although a virgin, she will soon bear a son who comes from God. A popular medieval Advent hymn, it was mentioned by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.
First published in France in 1553, “Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle” comes from Provence where Christ’s birth was traditionally celebrated by building a manger scene outside the home; there, families gathered to worship and sing songs by torchlight. Since the children of the family were entrusted with building the manger, two young girls are called to bring the torches. The melody of “The Infant King” also originally came from France, from the Basque country bordering Spain. This is a lovely example of the genre of lullabies for the baby Jesus that flourished throughout Europe. The words for this version, arranged by David Willcocks, the long-time leader of King’s College Choir, Cambridge, were added in the 19th century by Sabine Baring-Gould.
In Italy, shepherds came into the village with their zampogna bagpipes to sing songs to soothe Mary’s birth pains. “Tu scendi dalle stelle” is based on the tune of one of these zampogna songs, set to words in the 18th century by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Order. Both Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli have made it famous throughout the world today.
Ireland has been a rich source of carols. The “Irish Carol” – “Christmas Day has come” – is one of the Kilburn Carols collected by Father William Devereaux around 1728 in Kilburn, County Wexford. The melody is a folk tune from County Cork from the 16th or 17th century, and Devereaux is believed to have written the words. A traditional Irish melody dating back to around the 12th century, the “Wexford Carol” was handed down in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. Its beautiful, now modernized melody has been adopted by both Celtic groups and Julie Andrews. Despite its name, the tune of the “Sussex Carol” may also come from Ireland; it was written down by Luke Wadding, an Irish bishop in 1684. It only received its connection with this county of southern England in the late 19th century when Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams collected it there. This most joyously festive of Christmas songs is now strongly associated with King’s College Choir of Cambridge.
The image of the Christmas rose that flowers in winter is also prominent in carol texts, as we’ll hear later in Praetorius’ “Es ist ein Ros;” the rose symbolically represents Mary. We will hear a very early example in “There is no rose of such virtue,” an English carol – composer and poet unknown – from the early 15th century. It is sung in a three-part texture that faithfully echoes the harmonic practices of that period, and its combining of the vernacular English with Latin is very typical of the era. This beautiful text has been re-set by many later composers, including Benjamin Britten in his Ceremony of Carols.
From 14th-century England, “Veni Mater gracie/ Dou Way Robyn” is truly a fascinating macaronic creation. Here two songs in two languages are combined as one. The women sing a traditional lullaby refrain in Middle English that begs the husband, Robin, to go away and not disturb the sleeping baby. The men sing a most solemn ecclesiastical text in Latin, which envisions the suffering that awaits Mary and begs for her compassion.
Christmas Splendor in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
The 16th century saw the explosion of the art of writing polyphonic music for multiple voices. Two masters we will hear, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) and Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), were exact contemporaries flourishing in different lands. Known as “the Orpheus of Amsterdam,” Sweelinck never left the Netherlands. His motet “Hodie Christus natus est” was published in 1619 in his Cantiones sacrae and is one of the most glorious evocations of the joy of Christmas Day. The antiphonal calls on key words of this liturgical text based on Luke 2 and Psalm 33, as well as the pile-up of imitative entrances give this music tremendous excitement, making it sound as though it were written for more than its five parts.
The Nuremburg-born Hassler traveled to Venice in 1584 and studied with the great Andrea Gabrieli, also becoming a friend of his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli. Hassler brought the splendor of Venetian polyphony back to Germany and during his service at multiple German courts from Augsburg to Dresden spread the Italian style throughout the land. From his Sacri concentus of 1601, “Cantate Domino” sets the beginning of Psalm 96 “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Hassler’s writing for four voices is more homophonic and restrained than Sweelinck’s but still aerated by graceful contrapuntal lines.
Soon after Hassler died at the court of Dresden, his position was taken over by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), a scion of a prodigious family of German musicians. The greatest exponent of the Protestant German hymn tradition of his day, in 1609 he created the elegant harmonization for “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” (“Lo, how a Rose”), based on an anonymous German melody of the 16th century and an anonymous poem perhaps a century older. The words were inspired by Isaiah 11, which foretells that the Messiah will be born of Jesse’s lineage. Again Mary, and by extension Jesus, is the rose. The third verse was added in the 19th century.
Though written a century later, J. S. Bach’s tender lullaby hymn “O Jesulein süss” has strong connections with the Praetorius song. Its melody is the traditional German chorale “Komm, Heiliger Geist,” probably from the 16th century, and its text is by the 17th-century Prussian hymn writer Valentin Thilo. Bach’s deeply expressive harmonization was published in 1736 in Leipzig in the collection Geistlicher Lieder und Arien.
Lute Music of the Sixteenth Century
Originally brought by the Moors to Spain, by the 16th century the lute had become the king of instruments, holding the pre-eminence that the piano has in our day. The composer of the popular “A Toye” is unknown, but its style is certainly 16th-century English. The title means “A Toy,” referring to a short, playful composition in dance rhythm.
One of the greatest lutenists in Italy during the 16th century was Laurencini of Rome (c. 1552-1590). His real name was probably Lorenzo Tracetti, but he also became known as Lorenzino del Liuto. Born and working predominantly in Rome, he was awarded the knighthood of the Golden Spur for his artistry — an honor later given to Mozart. His fantasias are free-form compositions that mix plainer lyrical episodes with elaborate ornamental counterpoint. The son of a prominent Parisian music publisher, Robert Ballard (c. 1570-c. 1650) was Laurencini’s French counterpart. He was hired by Marie de Medici, Queen of France, in 1612 as her court lutenist and became the lute teacher of the young Louis XIII. We will hear a graceful Volte by him; the volte was a courtly couple dance, originally from Provence, in which the man helped the woman to periodically execute a high jump (Queen Elizabeth I loved this dance!).
In this program’s final section, we will hear three versions of the beloved 16th-century English melody “Greensleeves.” Although falsely attributed to King Henry VIII, its composer is unknown. First, we will hear it in Francis Cutting’s beautiful version for lute, the “Divisions – or variations – on Greensleeves.” One of England’s greatest lutenists, Cutting (c. 1550-c. 1596/1603) was employed by the powerful noble Howard family. Next, the famous vocal version “What Child is This?;” its words were written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix. And finally, “The Old Year has fled away,” also known as the “Carol for New Year’s Day.” Here, again, the words are by an anonymous poet.
Revival of English Carol Tradition
Although Christmas had been celebrated with wassailing and riotous parties during the 16th century in England, Oliver Cromwell’s puritan protectorate in the middle of the 17th century brought the merriment to an abrupt end; ultimately, the birth of Christ was not even marked modestly in English churches for more than a century. It was not until the 19th century – with help from both Charles Dickens and Prince Albert, Victoria’s consort – that these festivities finally recovered and, along with them, the composing and singing of carols. The old carols were lovingly collected into Christmas compilations, and many new ones were written to join them.
Renowned for his choral music and especially for his inspiring patriotic hymn “Jerusalem,” Sir Charles H.H. Parry (1848-1918) became the dean of English vocal music later in the 19th century. A late piece from 1917, his vivacious “Welcome, Yule” sets its familiar 15th-century anonymous text as a lively dialogue between different voices of the ensemble. The poem for “See, amid the Winter’s Snow” was written by Edward Caswell around 1858, and its beautiful but restrained melody – six solo verses with a choral refrain – was added by Sir John Goss (1800-1880) in 1871. For many decades, Goss was the chief organist at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. In addition to his powerful orchestral works, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) enriched England’s choral literature with his dedicated collecting of traditional English folk melodies and his sterling contributions to the Anglican hymnal. In 1928, he collaborated on The Oxford Book of Carols, and among his contributions was the hauntingly lovely melody for “Wither’s Rocking Hymn” (“Sweet Baby, Sleep”). The poem for this wistful lullaby to the Christ Child was written by George Withers (1588-1667).
Though it has been enthusiastically adopted into the English carol canon, “Three Kings from Persian lands afar” was actually written by a German composer, Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). An accomplished poet as well as composer, Cornelius also wrote the words of this beautiful song, found in his Wiehnachtslieder of 1856. At this time, he was a protégé of Franz Liszt in Weimar; Liszt suggested he use the 16th-century Lutheran chorale tune “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (“How brightly shines the morning star”) underneath the voice in the piano. In the English adaptation, the chorale is given, with a translation of its original German text, to an accompanying chorus.
And the art of creating Christmas carols continues today. The only American carol on today’s program is Norman dello Joio’s (1913–2008) “Lullaby for the Christ Child” (also known as “The Holy Infant’s Lullaby”) from 1962. The son, grandson, and great-grandson of prominent organists, dello Joio, winner of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Music, emphasize sacred themes throughout his long and prolific career. Garlanded with a lovely accompaniment, this melodious lullaby has the lilt of an Italian folksong. And the most recent carol we will hear is Philip Lawson’s (1957- ) “Lullay my liking” written for the renowned contemporary English vocal ensemble the King’s Singers. For many years, Lawson was a member of this group and has created many arrangements for them, as well as more than 150 original choral songs. Here he chose an anonymous 15th-century poem, whose refrain is a lullaby sung by Mary to her child, surrounded by verses describing the future importance of this moment. Lawson artfully uses a modern choral style, mixing close harmony in the refrain and contemporary polyphony in the faster middle verses, alongside music that evokes the austere style of the 15th century.
– Janet E. Bedell