Ah, holiday programming. For the October, February and April concerts, we have a blank slate in terms of what we could sing. But the December concert series is loaded with expectation and connotation – it’s the only concert series that dictates the programming. More about that in a moment.
But first, a slight tangent, and a little choir secret – well, one that singers know anyway, so perhaps not much of a secret. Every new set of repertoire goes through a cycle. We work on repertoire for a concert series for months. We get to know the music inside and out – it becomes a close friend – it moves us and connects to us. Then we perform it in concert, and hope that we can share that connection with our audience. And then…it’s taken away from us. We’re told to let it go. And new, unfamiliar music is placed in our hands. We look at it warily, and with caution – like an interloper that has replaced the previous pieces we had gotten so close to. So…we aren’t friendly at first, we put up walls, we engage only superficially.
And so it was at the first rehearsal for our December concerts. Ripped out of the hands of the singers was Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. And though, unspoken, the hesitancy with the new repertoire was palpable at the first rehearsal.
And then…and here’s part of the magic of being in and working with a group like this…the walls started coming down – that first tentative step was taken to engage, to try to understand, to uncover the beauty, joy and celebration this new music has to offer. And as we approach our December concerts, these new pieces have now become new close friends to us. And we’re very excited to share them with you this weekend!
And we think we have a pretty unique program, in this time of year where the season dictates the programming, and finding a unique approach to the holiday concerts gets harder and harder. I’ll let our fabulous program notes author, Susan Wladaver-Morgan, sum it up for you:
“We initially took our inspiration for this concert from the woman at the center of the Christmas story–Mary, the Mother of God. But the season also brings a renewed focus on Mother Earth herself, as she too prepares to give birth to a new year and a new chance to live peacefully with one another.”
You will recognize a lot of composer names who have written music to depict both the Mother of God (Mater Dei) and Mother Earth (Terra Mater) – and the stillness and peace of winter: John Tavener, Ola Gjeilo, Arvo Pärt, Antonio Vivaldi, Eric Whitacre, Stephen Chatman.
But you’ll also hear traditional Spanish and Mexican carols, songs in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, a wonderful Marian Antiphon from the Spanish Renaissance, and one of the first polyphonic pieces of music written in the “new world” in the 16th century – written in the ancient Andes language of Quechua (fortunately, we had choir connections to Peru so we could get help with the pronunciation). And as we love to do, we found some amazing contemporary composers that we’re excited to introduce you to – such as American composer Brian Holmes, and Swedish composer Martin Åsander. It’s a concert that’s extremely varied in language and origin – we hope the type of program you have come to expect of CAE.
So, in this crazy holiday season, we invite you to step inside, let the rest of the world fall away, and let us surround you in music celebrating these two images of maternal caring and love – Terra Mater and Mater Dei.
On behalf of everyone here at CAE, we wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.
David De Lyser