Holidays a cappella: Silver Bells

December 2018

Program Notes

From Artistic Director Jonathan Miller

Welcome to “Holidays a cappella.” We’re so pleased that you’ve chosen to
spend part of the busy holiday season with us.


Over the 25 years that our group has been together, we’ve created a
tradition of holiday programs that contain songs you generally won’t
hear anywhere else, in combinations that will both calm your spirit and
inspire your heart. Our singers and music director work hard to bring you
that rarest of treats—a world-class professional ensemble singing for you in a live concert
setting. There’s a particular brand of magic that happens in this setting; you can’t get it by
listening to a recording, the radio, Pandora, or Spotify, or by watching TV. The magic here
is a combination of the voices and talents on stage, the music that they are singing together,
and you—yes, you—here with us in this building to experience it in all the ways with which
we experience things.


Kathryn Kamp and Paul Nicholson have shepherded this program with their usual skill and
imagination. While the singers make it look easy on stage, it takes a lifetime of experience to
do what they can do. I invite you therefore to enjoy this concert as deeply as you can, and to
savor it until the next time you come back to hear us. May the holiday season be filled with
peace, joy and blessings for you and your loved ones.


Warmly,
Jonathan Miller
Founder and Artistic Director

From Guest Programmer Kathryn Kamp

Welcome to Silver Bells! Our 25th anniversary season Holidays a cappella
program honors the past, cherishes the present, and looks forward to the
future. Whether you’re a fan of older melodies or more contemporary
tunes, we’ve got you covered. There are several selections by composers
and arrangers whose work has graced our concert stages throughout the
years. Bob Applebaum, Gunnar Eriksson, Gwyneth Walker, Robert L.
Morris, Paul Langford and Anders Edenroth are among those
represented tonight.


VOCES8 and Pentatonix fall on opposite ends of the musical spectrum in terms of style, yet
both sing killer charts worthy of Chicago a cappella. This concert series will be the first time
we’ve brought their arrangements to the Chicago a cappella stage. This will likely not be the
last time we dig into their libraries!


While it’s fun to discover great arrangements that could become part of our future repertoire,
it’s even more thrilling to be presented with custom arrangements written by someone we
hold close to our hearts who truly understands our sound. Patrick Sinozich’s affiliation with
Chicago a cappella pre-dates our debut concert—he served as accompanist for the first
round of auditions 25 years ago and has since served as rehearsal coach, Music Director,
producer of four Chicago a cappella CDs, and Guest Programmer for several concerts.
He has perfectly captured the spirit of the season—and of Chicago a cappella—with his
arrangement of “Silver Bells.” We are grateful for his incredibly creative contributions and
eternal support.


The program would not be complete without an offering by our Founder and Artistic
Director Jonathan Miller. When asked which chart in his ever-growing set of arrangements
would be most appropriate for Chanukah he suggested Shehecheyanu, and he was absolutely
right. I believe, however, his greatest contribution to this program lies in the years of hard
work he has dedicated to unearthing gems from days past; discovering the work of (and
building relationships with) composers and arrangers from around the world; and pushing
the boundaries of choral programming. To date Jonathan has crafted a whopping 86
programs for Chicago a cappella. This is the basis for tonight’s program, and the reason why
we are able to celebrate 25 years as Chicago a cappella. I am fortunate to have such a vast
array of programs and songs from which to draw inspiration, and am thankful for Jonathan’s
feedback and encouragement as I worked through the creation of this program.


I’d like to extend a special word of thanks to our Guest Music Director Paul Nicholson. His
deep understanding of performance practice across all genres of music is extraordinary, and
his ability to teach the singers how to best honor those traditions while bringing his own
beautiful artistry into the mix is a unique gift. I believe his generous, kind spirit is reflected
in each note you will hear tonight, and appreciate him more than words can express.
Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to each of you. Chicago a cappella would not be who
we are today without your support. We are honored each time we have the opportunity to
share an evening with you, and this feeling is amplified by the celebration of our 25 years
together. May our performance bring you light, love and peace as you move through this holiday season.

Notes on the Music by Kathryn Kamp

Plainchant, Mode 7: Puer natus est nobis
This Gregorian chant expresses the overwhelming joy of the birth of the Christ child. It
is traditionally sung as celebrants enter the sanctuary on Christmas Day. Jonathan Miller
programmed the medieval Mass chant as the opening tune of the 1997 Holidays concert, and
it seems fitting to include it as a representation of the many very early music settings we’ve
performed over the years.

arr. J. David Moore: Il est né, le divin Enfant

If Puer natus est nobis doesn’t exactly sound full of “overwhelming joy” to your 21st century
ears, you’ll certainly get your fill of excitement here. J. David Moore’s 2004 arrangement of
the traditional French carol announces the birth of Jesus with a brilliant fanfare bookending
a lovely chorale.

 

Jonathan Miller: Shehecheyanu
The Shehecheyanu is a Hebrew prayer recited at happy occasions and festivals of significance
such as Chanukah. Jonathan Miller wrote: “Composing it literally came to me as I was
walking down the street, and the rhythm of my feet on the pavement gave rise to the
quarter-note pulse for the melody. Once that was done, the piece pretty much wrote itself.

arr. Robert Applebaum, from “Three Pieces for Chanukah”: Maoz Tzur

Maoz Tzur is traditionally sung on Chanukah after the lighting of the menorah. The Hebrew
song is thought to have originated in the 13th century: However Bob Applebaum’s blues and
jazz harmonies bring an updated spin. Chicago a cappella has performed more than 15 works
written or arranged by Bob over the years, and it’s an honor to bring you yet another gem from
this gifted artist.

Gwyneth Walker: The Christ-Child’s Lullaby
Gwyneth Walker’s ability to fashion an endless number of textures, timbres and effects delivers
a stunning experience for the listener. Her vocal lines are a joy for singers to produce and
present, and her text-driven approach always gives a clear sense of direction and character.
This extended, dramatic rendition of the traditional Scottish “Hebrides Lullaby” begins and
ends with Mary alone as she expresses feelings of unworthiness to tend to the needs of her
child. This is contrasted by a celebratory choral “Alleluia” in the middle of the work. Mary,
however, remains steadfastly in her own thoughts throughout.

arr. Robert Leigh Morris: Children Go Where I Send Thee
Paraphrasing the arranger Robert L. Morris, freedom, literacy, and numeracy were the
intangibles most desired by slaves. To seek such knowledge was as great a threat to the
institution of slavery as were overtly rebellious behaviors, so attempts to educate slaves were
cloaked in subterfuge. Since Jesus was perceived as a source of revolutionary inspiration,
references to him were disguised beneath the identities of other Biblical characters. This
explains the limited repertoire of Christmas spirituals when compared to spirituals of
other types.

These same biblical figures are the vehicle for the songs’ immediate purpose, which is to
learn the number system backwards and forwards. The backward count returns to Jesus, the
freedom figure, who “was born in Bethlehem.” The underlying belief of this song, hidden
beneath the joy, may well be that knowledge leads to freedom.

Traditional Swedish; arr. Gunnar Eriksson: Kristallen den fina
Gunnar Eriksson is a Swedish arranger, choral conductor and founder of the 12-voice Rilke
Ensemble. Jonathan writes: “I have never found a vocal ensemble more akin to Chicago a
cappella than the Rilke Ensemble—both are virtuoso ensembles made up of soloists, which
imbue the music at hand with individual passion while remaining committed to flawless
tuning, blend, and ultimately, expressing the score itself. Both ensembles are favorites of
living composers, and so on. Until I met Gunnar, I didn’t know there was any other group
out there like ours. I am happy that he had been at it for a decade or so before me, and
grateful for his generous collegiality.”


Kristallen den fina is an old Swedish tune expressing love for the Virgin Mary with texts
depicting quite passionate images. Gunnar’s arrangement brings together the original tune
(sung by the two highest voices) with two other sacred Swedish melodies: A Lutheran
chorale in the tenor and an old Gregorian melody bracketed by the two.

Juan García de Zespedes (1619-1678): Convidando está la Noche
This joyous holiday guaracha contrasts rapid tempos with a slower section. Traditional
images of the newborn child are represented in the slower section, while the lyrics in the
faster section are more animated, theatrical and dramatic. This is probably the best-known
piece of Mexican composer Juan García de Zespedes (1619-1678), and performances
typically included instruments and dancing.

arr. James Winfield: O Tannenbaum
The roots of this folk song date back to the 16th century. The original text did not refer to
Christmas or Christmas trees, which didn’t evolve as a custom until the 19th century. It
was simply a folk song using an evergreen as a representation of faithfulness and constancy.
In 1819 Joachim Zarnack adapted the text to correlate the treu (true, faithful) evergreen
tree with a faithless lover to create a somewhat tragic song. In 1824 Ernst Anschütz wrote
additional verses directly referencing Christmas, thus flipping the perspective of Zarnack’s
version into something more positive and hopeful. At some point in the 20th century—after
Christmas trees had become a solid custom—the word treu was changed to grün (green).

arr. Jim Clements: Gabriel’s Message
Jim Clements is a British composer, singer, arranger, and orchestrator. He has written
countless charts for a cappella groups including The King’s Singers and VOCES8. This
glorious arrangement of a Basque Christmas folk carol was nominated for the Best Classical
Song in the 2009 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards.

Anonymous & James Lord Pierpont, arr. James L. Clemens: Jingle a cappella
Written for Chicago a cappella’s 2003 Holidays program, James E. Clemens’ take on James
S. Pierpont’s 1857 tune brings fun, contemporary harmonization’s to a classic Christmas
standard. The fugue in 7/8 time in the middle section is based on Bach’s Fugue 23, BWV 868,
from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Volume 1. Don’t try this at home, folks!

Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn, arr. Paul Langford: Christmas Waltz
This chart is one of many Paul Langford forwarded to me for consideration. Being a longtime
fan of The Christmas Waltz I was thrilled to see it included in the list. Originally written for
Frank Sinatra, it has since been covered by a range of artists including The Carpenters, Pat Boone, Robert Goulet, Rosemary Clooney and Johnny Mathis. When I asked Paul if he had any thoughts he’d like to share about his arrangement he confessed: “I stole the introidea for Christmas Waltz from an old Peggy Lee Christmas record my dad used to play when we were kids.” Paul’s arrangement was written for Voices of Liberty (the in-house a cappella group at Epcot Center), and is an excellent fit for Chicago a cappella.

Felix Bernard & Richard B. Smith/Bobby McFerrin, arr. Pentatonix: Winterwonderland/Don't Worry, Be Happy

In 1934 the Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra finished a recording session early, and with the
remaining time laid down a track for a new tune called “Winter Wonderland.” Among the
many New York studio musicians in that session was a 24-year old clarinetist named Artie
Shaw. Within a few years Shaw would be regarded as one of jazz’s finest clarinetists and
big-band leaders.


“Winter Wonderland” has been recorded over 200 times by a range of artists including
Elvis Presley, The Andrews Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin and the Eurythmics. The
Pentatonix version is yet another fun variation on his classic holiday tune, one which might
help alleviate symptoms of holiday stress. Don’t worry, be happy!

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, arr. Patrick Sinozich: Silver Bells
Whether producing an album, music directing, creating entire concerts comprised only of
custom arrangements (Rock and Soul, anyone?) or cheering us on from the audience, Patrick’s
influence on the Chicago a cappella sound and spirit has been a persistent creative force
throughout our history. He was a natural choice to serve as arranger for the title track for
our Silver Anniversary program. His lovely dedication on the title page of “Silver Bells” will
forever associate this arrangement with our 25th Anniversary Season. Thank you, Patrick, for
all your incredible gifts!

Anders Edenroth: The World for Christmas
Anders Edenroth writes:
“For The World for Christmas, I’ve chosen to frame my lyrics with several lines from Clement
Clarke Moore’s and Henry Livingstone Jr.’s famous Christmas poem, ‘Twas the Night Before
Christmas, which describes the moments of anticipation while waiting for presents
from Santa.


For a long time I have been trying to express my concern for the future of our planet in music
and words. I only had the phrase “Give me a present for the future,” which with its double
meaning captured my feelings exactly. But I couldn’t come up with anything else.
So one day last winter I met my friend Emma’s three day old daughter, Lela. She made me
realize that it wasn’t my worry that needed to be expressed but rather Lela’s unspoken wish. I
have borrowed her voice in order to ask you all to take care of our planet so that one day she
and all the children of the world can inherit the beautiful blue-green, healthy planet of their dreams.