the December 4th, 2005 Concert
out the old, ring in the new,
happy bells, across the snow;
year is going, let him go;
out the false, ring in the true.
A. Tennyson , In Memoriam . (1833)
the sledges with the bells - Silver bells!
the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
the bells, bells, bells, bells,
bells, bells -
the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
E. A. Poe . The Bells (1849)
mourn death, I disperse the lightning, I announce the Sabbath,
I rouse the lazy, I scatter the winds, I appease the bloodthirsty.
over a bell, (date uncertain, original in Latin)
today's concert emphasizes the role of bells in contributing
to our holiday festivities and reveling, bell-ringing probably
had its origins in the belief that their sounds could ward off
evil spirits-although it's hard to believe that a hardened demon
would be frightened by the tinkling of a bell. Nevertheless,
we read in Exodus that bells were sewn onto the hem of the High
Priest's garments to protect him when he entered into holy places,
and the Israelite shepherds placed bells on their sheep not only
as a way of frightening away predators, but also to guard their
flocks against air-borne devils. Poe's celebrated poem describes
quite well the diverse uses that bells are put to; its opening
lines (quoted above) describe the happy feelings they convey
during mid-winter revels, but in succeeding stanzas the poet
reminds us that bells are also used to strike terror, to warn
of impending disasters, and to toll the arrival of Death. (Bells
can even kill, as Dorothy Sayers points out in her murder mystery The
Nine Tailors .)
use of bells in Christian worship began in earnest in the sixth
century when the Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino developed
methods for casting bronze bells. The Order soon established
foundries throughout Europe , and the good monks were at one
time the primary source of bells for churches and monasteries.
Within a century, any Christian community lacking a Benedictine
bell was very much the exception.
have customarily been part of Christmas tradition, and as Mr.
Tristram Coffin observes, it has always been the job of the youngsters
to raise a general commotion at holiday time, with bells and
other noisemakers. Medieval Christmas nights were far from silent,
notwithstanding the sentiment of our most popular carol. Our
forebears believed that even bells that had been sunk to the
bottom of ponds and lakes would miraculously ring out at midnight
on Christmas Eve. Bells are infused with much magic and mystery,
and what better time to remind ourselves of their power to incant
and charm than at this holiday concert as we share our gift of
music with the Agape Ringers.
Lee Scott, born in Alabama in 1950, is a graduate of the University
of Alabama School of Music. He has served on the faculties of
his alma mater, at its Birmingham campus, and at Samford University
. He also serves as choir director at St. Matthew's Episcopal
Church in Birmingham .
Scott has well over three hundred compositions to his credit,
including anthems, hymns, and works for both solo voice and chorus. Ring
Out, Ye Crystal Spheres, for chorus, handbells, and organ,
was commissioned for the 2001 Festival of Christmas Music at
Samford University in Birmingham . The text is drawn from the
thirteenth stanza of John Milton's "On the Morning of Christ's
Nativity," an early poem written when the poet was twenty-one,
in the same year he received his B.A. degree at Christ's College,
Walker (b. 1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt
School of Music. A former faculty member of Oberlin College Conservatory,
she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue
a career as a full-time composer. She now lives on a dairy farm
in Braintree , Vermont . She is the proud recipient of the 2000 "Lifetime
Achievement Award" from the Vermont Arts Council.
of musical settings of three traditional carols and was originally
scored for mixed chorus and orchestra. That version was commissioned
for the Juletide Festival 2001 at Luther College in Decorah ,
Iowa , and received its premier performance on November 28th
of that year. At the request of Dr. Chen, Ms. Walker has composed
an alternate setting for chorus, organ, brass choir, and bells.
Today marks the first performance of this new version written
expressly for the North Shore Choral Society.
first movement is a free setting of "What Child Is This?" The
melody on which this carol is based is the traditional Elizabethan
song "Greensleeves." The second carol, "Love Came
Down at Christmas," is a new setting of a poem by the English
poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). This leads directly into
the next movement, "Good Christian Friends Rejoice!" which
is based on the fourteenth century German melody "In dulci
Mathias (1934-1992) was born and educated in Wales and graduated
from the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth in 1956.
Apart from a brief four-year sojourn as lecturer at Edinburgh
University , he always lived and worked in his native Wales .
Grove's Dictionary describes him as one of the best-equipped
composers Wales has ever produced and further states that "his
success is due to the professional attitude toward composition
that he found it necessary to adopt in the face of a native tradition
that for centuries had been dominated by amateurs." His
list of compositions is indeed impressive, including concertos,
symphonies, much chamber music, an opera, and an abundance of
Rex: A Carol Sequence , with texts derived from anonymous
Medieval lyrics, was commissioned by the Cardiff Polyphonic
Choir and first performed on December 1969. The work is cast
in four movements:
1, "Ave Rex" (Hail, King of angels)
2, "Alleluya, a new work is come on hand"
3, "There is no rose of such virtue" (The text is from
a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford , probably dating
from the fourteenth century.)
4, "Sir Christèmas" (The text survives in a
British Museum manuscript, probably dating from the reign of
Copyright © 2005
by Donald Draganski