Reviews Philip Greenfield in The American Record Guide, Nov/Dec 2010:
"A tribute not just to the spirit of Christmas but to the spirited brand of music-making going on at the University of New Mexico. Las Cantantes, the University's 20-voice women's chamber choir, does the Alma Mater proud with sensitive, heartfelt singing in such spiritually-charged works as Jean Langlais's exquisite 'Ave Mundi Gloria', the jaunty 'Personent Hodie' from John Rutter's cycle of carols called Dancing Day, and the handsome 'Magnificat' for voices, marimba and oboe composed by Bradley Ellingboe, Director of Choral Activities at UNM's Department of Music. You'll hear some strain in Rutter's 'Virgin Most Pure' (also from Dancing Day) as the verses are passed between different soloists and choral subdivisions with less than unanimous results. But on the whole, the choir sounds just fine under the baton of Dr. Maxine Thevenot, an organist-conductor trained at the Manhattan School. The instrumentalists on loan from the New Mexico Symphony, Santa Fe's ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and Albuquerque's Cathedral Church of St.John (organist Iain Quinn) are first-rate. From the sound of things, the University of New Mexico would be a wonderful place not only to share the melodies of Christmas but to study and perform music year-round."
PRAETORIUS: Psallite (arr. Norman Gregson)
JEAN LANGLAIS: Ave Mundi Gloria
FREDERICK FRAHM: Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (St. Luke Service) *
TRADITIONAL: Balulalow (setting by Antony Baldwin) *
GABRIEL FAURÉ: Maria Mater gratiae
BRADLEY ELLINGBOE: Magnificat *
TRAD.: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
harp solo played by Lynn Gorman DeVelder (arr. Susann McDonald & Linda Wood)
TRAD.: Christmas Lullaby (Scottish tune arr. Malcolm Dalglish)
JOHN RUTTER: Dancing Day, A cycle of carols:
Prelude (harp solo)
Angelus ad Virginem
A virgin most pure
Interlude (harp solo)
There is no rose
The Coventry Carol
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
TRAD.: A la Ru, a la Me (arr. Bradley Ellingboe) *
TRAD.: Apple Tree Wassail (arr. Stephen Hatfield)
TRAD.: Silent Night (arr. John Rutter)
MARTIN and BLANE: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (arr. Bradley Ellingboe)
Writes Craig Smith, Santa Fe New Mexican, Dec. 12, 2008:
This debut recording by Las Cantantes, the women’s choir of The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, is a little gem in many ways. First off, the group . . . sounds well schooled and well prepared, and the actual singing laid down during the May 2008 recording sessions is solid for an amateur/student ensemble. Second, the repertoire chosen by conductor Maxine Thévenot mixes familiar holiday fare, most of it in new arrangements, with pieces being recorded for the first time. Third, there are excellent supporting musicians—organist Iain quinn, harpist Lynn Gorman DeVelder, oboist Claudia Giese, and percussionist Jeff Cornelius . . . I listened to this on the car stereo, on the computer, and on the home system, and I enjoyed it each time.
Among the best moments are Albuquerque composer Frederick Frahm’s sensitive and piquant Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, ethereally sung by the group and deftly accompanied by Quinn; UNM professor Bradley Ellingboe’s Magnificat, also a compelling setting of the biblical text with the unusual yet very effective accompaniment of marimba and oboe; and John Rutter’s big-scaled Dancing Day, a selection of carols and interludes. In the many movements of this third piece, DeVelder sounds especially fine, and the women’s voices often blossom like Christmas roses. . .
As the cherry on the cupcake, the liner booklet offers full and accurate repertoire notes, comprehensive performer biographies, and original-language texts and English translations of the full program. I wish some of the big labels did as well as Raven does here.
Christmas joy radiates from Las Cantantes, the Women’s Choir of the University of New Mexico, directed by Maxine Thévenot, in beautiful traditional favorites, most in recent or new arrangements including three which are *recorded here for the first time. The choir is joined by organist Iain Quinn, harpist Lynn Gorman DeVelder, oboist Claudia Giese, and percussionist Jeff Cornelius.
The women's chorus, Las Cantantes, is directed by Dr. Maxine Thévenot and is comprised of a select group of singers each semester. The ensemble you hear on this CD was completely new in the 2007-2008 academic term and so this CD is the culmination of singing together for about eight months. This unique ensemble studies, rehearses and performs the finest literature for treble voices. Performances occur several times throughout each academic term both on and off campus including many local churches, synagogues and concert halls.
Las Cantantes was founded by Professor Bradley Ellingboe in 1994. During his 14-year tenure as their director, the group collaborated with such important musical figures as Libby Larsen and Dave Brubeck and has enjoyed masterclasses by such eminent musicians as Alice Parker and Moses Hogan. Also during his tenure, they toured in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma where they sang for the American Choral Directors Association Regional Convention. In addition to two CDs with Prof. Ellingboe directing, their holiday special, “Enchantment at Chimayo,” made in conjunction with the UNM Chamber Orchestra, has been heard on NPR stations nationally.
With their new director (since Fall 2007), Dr. Maxine Thévenot and Las Cantantes have performed more than a dozen concerts, recorded this, their first CD of Christmas music, and have been invited to sing concerts in New York City including the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of their May 2009 concert tour. They will also have masterclasses in the 2008-2009 academic season with Alice Parker and Robert Isaacs (MSM), and continue to work with living composers in the preparation of premiere performances of new works.
We hope you enjoy our first CD with our new director and thank you for supporting the Choirs at UNM by way of purchasing this CD.
Notes on the Music
Psallite by Michael Praetorius and arranged here by Norman Greyson is an example of a Renaissance motet called a macaronic carol, meaning the text occurs in two different languages. These were not uncommon, and usually included both Latin and a vernacular language. In this case Praetorius used Latin for the rondo-like refrain whilst the short verses are in his native German. The music, typical of its time is light and detached, in typical Renaissance “madrigal” style. It could quite authentically be doubled on instruments (e.g. trumpets & trombones; recorders; woodwinds, strings).
Jean Langlais was born in La Fontenelle (Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany), a small village near Mont St. Michel, France. Langlais became blind when he was only two years old, and was sent to study at the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, where he began to study the organ. From there, he progressed to the Paris Conservatory, studying with the great 19th and 20th century organists and composers such as Marcel Dupré, Paul Dukas, André Marchal. He followed in the footsteps of César Franck and Charles Tournemire as Organist Titulaire at the Basilica of Sainte Clotilde in Paris in 1945, a post in which he remained until 1987. He was much in demand as a concert organist, and toured widely across Europe and the United States. Langlais's music is written in a late, free tonal style, representative of mid-twentieth-century French music, with rich and complex harmonies and overlapping modes, more tonal than his contemporary and countryman, Olivier Messiaen. Ave Mundi Gloria is the second of Five Motets written for 2 equal voices and organ.
Frederick Frahm studied composition with Gregory Youtz, Gary Smart and Roger Briggs. A Post-Modern American composer, Frahm’s music can be described as polystylistic in which an eclecticism of musical form, genre, and tonal character is preferred to a theory driven approach. Frahm’s response to literature and poetry, however, gives his music its particular individuality. The resulting music works to reflect the inner meaning or essence of the text in a way that goes beyond the mere fitting of syllables to notes in a given passage. For Frahm, music is born of the text, and the text is expressively articulated by its music: a fusion of two arts into a new creation greater than the sum of its parts.
The composer writes, “The St. Luke Service is striking in the composer’s combination of classic liturgical texts with a compositional style clearly influenced by a modern minimalism and tonal harmony. Repetitive, arpeggiated figures abound in the accompaniment, and new formal sections appear often without modulation or extended development. The choral parts feature a dichotomy of soaring melodies and understated plainchant-like lines. The title ‘Service’ refers to the usage of both the Song of Mary (Magnificat) and the Song of Simeon (Nunc dimittis) as canticles in the traditional Evensong liturgy. Both texts are drawn from the Gospel of Luke in the King James translation and are most appropriate to the seasons surrounding the Nativity of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Antony Baldwin was born in London. His early years were spent as a choirboy at Southwark Cathedral, London. He studied at the Universities of Oxford and Durham, and afterwards embarked upon a career in teaching, organ-playing and choir-training. Baldwin has made regular visits to the United States as a recitalist and formed his own chamber choir in California. He is currently Organist at the American Church in London. As a composer, Baldwin has written anthems, carols, carol arrangements and organ music. This setting of the text Balulalow was written in memory of Susan Baldwin, 25 December 1986.
Gabriel Fauré is regarded as the master of the French art song, or mélodie. His works range from an early romantic style, when in his early years he emulated the style of Mendelssohn and others, to late 19th-century Romantic, and finally to a 20th-century aesthetic. Fauré’s association with the fashionable church of La Madeleine in Paris began in the 1870s, where he was choirmaster under Théodore Dubois; he succeeded Dubois as organist in 1896 and remained there for many years, mostly because of the financial security it offered. During this time he also succeeded Jules Massenet as composition instructor at the Paris Conservatory. At this post he taught many important French composers, including Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. Whilst he published nothing for the organ during the early years at La Madeleine, he did write his most beloved work, Requiem (1888) and a number of small motets which were undoubtedly composed for use by his choir during the Mass. These include the Maria, Mater Gratiae for treble voices and organ.
This unique setting of the Magnificat was written as a “companion piece” to Libby Larsen’s “Stepping Westward,” which also calls for oboe and marimba. Under the direction of Professor Bradley Ellingboe, this piece was premiered in 2000 and is dedicated to his colleague at UNM, soprano Leslie Umphrey. The Magnificat (also known as the Song of Mary) is a canticle frequently sung (or said) liturgically in Christian church services. The text of the canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55) where it is spoken by the Virgin Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth's womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings the Magnificat in response.
Malcolm Dalglish is a choral composer and director, hammer dulcimer, spoons, bones, and chin music virtuoso who presents programs of original folk choir and dulcimer music, stories, mime, rhyme, rhythm, and song. A virtuoso performer on the hammer dulcimer, he is a former member of the folk/Celtic trio Metamora and has performed frequently with the percussionist Glen Velez. His compositions for choir are with dulcimer accompaniment. Dalglish attended Oberlin College and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
In Las Cantantes this year, we were blessed to have as one of our singers Johanna Jimenez who is also a wonderful hammer dulcimer player. Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your special talent with us! Christmas Lullaby is a simple yet haunting old Scottish melody set with winter imagery of Mother, Child, and Angels.
Dancing Day by John Rutter is a cycle of traditional Christmas Carols. It is scored for SSA and harp and was commissioned by the West Midlands Arts Association and given its first performance in Coventry Cathedral on 26 January 1974. This work celebrates Christmas with a tapestry of familiar carols and old texts dating back as far as the 14th century. Several of these songs are “people’s music”—the merry medieval dance tunes that with their religious text had one foot in the church door, and with their dance melodies one in the village square. This strange amalgam of secular experience and religious story retell the central event of Christmas with vivid imagery and affecting simplicity. Through them all runs the sense of wonder and danceable joy.
Born in London in 1945, John Rutter read music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the choir and then director of music from 1975 to 1979. In 1981 he founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, which he conducts and with which he has made many recordings of sacred choral repertoire (including his own works), particularly under his own label Collegium Records. He still lives near Cambridge, but frequently conducts other choirs and orchestras around the world. Rutter, an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton and fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians was in 1996 conferred a Lambeth Doctorate of Music for his contribution to church music by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is a frequent guest of universities, churches, music festivals and conferences throughout the world.
Bradley Ellingboe, founder of Las Cantantes (1994), writes about this folk song, “The late Dean of the College of Fine Arts at UNM, John Donald Robb, did us all a great service when he collected the Hispanic folk songs of northern New Mexico. I found A la ru, a la Me in his seminal collection and decided to arrange it for women's chorus and two flutes — making this arguably the most ‘trebly’ of all treble chorus arrangements.” We are grateful to Prof. Ellingboe for his permission to use two flutes from the large and colorful stop list of the splendid pipe organ at the Cathedral Church of St. John. It is the largest pipe organ in the State of New Mexico.
Apple Tree Wassail was written for the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario. It is a triple-time andante “stomper” that summons up the spirit of winter celebrations without ever mentioning Christmas. The arranger Stephen Hatfield writes, “I was so gratified when Bob Chilcott chose this for a massed choir, and even more gratified by the ‘swang-n-twang’ singing style the kids produced. This is salt-of-the-earth music that should sound like it's being performed at 2 a.m. on the touring bus. It's most important to me that the shouts of ‘Hear it!’ written in the score should be the commanding bellow of an umpire, rather than a suggestion from a polite child.” Stephen lives on Vancouver Island and in addition to his choral works he enjoys composing for the theater. While teaching school in Ontario he became recognized as a leader in multiculturalism and musical folklore, an interest that informs many of his compositions and arrangements.
Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon “wes hael” to be healthy. Wassails were taken seriously as blessings on farms and farmers that would help ensure the health of the coming year. This folk song comes from the cider country of Devon and Somerset, where it might be sung in the orchards or at the farmer’s door. The twelfth day of Christmas (Epiphany) was thought to be a perfect time to bless the orchards, in part because it was believed that evil spirits did their best to confound Christmas piety.
On 24 December 1818, the carol Silent Night was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. The congregation at that Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church listened as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr (lyricist), and the choir director, Franz X. Gruber (melodist), rang through the church to the accompaniment of Fr. Mohr's guitar. On each of the six verses, the choir repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony. On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would wing its way into the hearts of people throughout the world. Now translated into hundreds of languages, it is sung by untold millions every December from small chapels in the Andes to great cathedrals in Antwerp, Rome and even Albuquerque. Here is an arrangement of this beloved carol accompanied by the organ (perhaps as it was intended as rumor has it the organ was not working that night and that is why the guitar may have been used!)
Founder of Las Cantantes and Director of Choral Activites at the University of New Mexico Bradley Ellingboe writes regarding his arrangement of Have yourself a merry little Christmas, “When I began Las Cantantes I relied on the advice of several friends who were already successful directors of women's choirs. One of these was Louise Boteler of New Orleans. Louise had struggled with cancer but was in remission when I first met her. She asked me at one point if I would make an arrangement of this piece. I agreed, and then promptly tabled the matter. Several months went by, when suddenly I got a call from a mutual friend saying Louise's cancer had reappeared and, in fact, she had passed away. I sat down the next day and wrote this in one sitting. Until that moment it had never occurred to me how wistful a song this is.” The heart warming Christmas song was immortalized by Judy Garland. The lyricist for this carol was Ralph Blane and the haunting music composed by Hugh Martin. It was first published in 1943.
Bradley Ellingboe has been on the faculty of the University of New Mexico since 1985, where he is Professor of Music and Regents Lecturer. He is a graduate of Saint Olaf College and the Eastman School of Music and has done further study at the Aspen Music Festival, the Bach Aria Festival, the University of Oslo and the Vatican. Ellingboe is well known as a composer of choral music, with over 100 pieces in print. His choral music is widely sung and is published by Oxford, Augsburg, Walton, Hal Leonard, Mark Foster, Choristers Guild, Concordia, and particularly the Kjos Music Company, for whom he edits two series of choral octavos. Ellingboe has won annual awards for his choral compositions from ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Arrangers and Publishers since 2000. His music has been performed and recorded by such groups as the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Philip Brunelle’s VocalEssence, the Saint Olaf Choir, the Harvard Glee Club, Craig Hella Johnson’s Conspirare, and the choirs of the University of Michigan and Luther College, among many others. An active church musician, Ellingboe was Director of Music at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Albuquerque from 1990-2009. He has given workshops for the AGO, PAM, ALCM, and NPM. He has been on the summer faculties of Saint Olaf College, Southern Methodist University and the Montreat Conference Center, among many others.