From the Birmingham Studio
Order of Service :
Hymn, ' In the bleak mid winter' (English
Hymnal, No. 25)
Hymn, 'It came upon the midnight clear'
(English Hymnal, No. 26)
Reading, Luke ii,
Address by H. G. Wood , M.A. (Director of Studies at the Woodbrooke Settlement)
Hymn, ' Let sighing cease, and woe' (English Hymnal, No. 27)
BELLA BAILLIE (Soprano)
ESTHER COLEMAN (Contralto)
TOM PICKERING (Tenor)
ROBERT MAINLAND (Bass)
CYRIL S. CHRISTOPHER (Continuo)
THE BIRMINGHAM STUDIO CHORUS and AUGMENTED ORCHESTRA
(Leader, FRANK CANTELL)
Conducted by JOSEPH LEWIS
BACH'S Christmas Oratorio is the biggest of his three works in this form. Unlike the oratorios of Handel and Mendelssohn, it has no really dramatically developed plot; the work was not intended, moreover, to be performed all at once; it is in six portions, each of which was meant to be sung on a different day, beginning at Christmas Day and ending o n Epiphany. Each of the six portions is thus self-contained and complete ; it is the music which gives it an impression of unity. As in the ' Passion ' music, the Tenor soloist relates the incidents in recitative, and the reflections and thoughts which the story suggests are embodied in Arias, Chorales, and passages of Chorus. The first portion tells of the coming of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; the second turns on the announcement of the Birth to the shepherds, and the praises of the Heavenly Hosts. In the third, the shepherds find Mary and Joseph and the Babe in the manger, and the fourth part tells of the naming of the Child as the Angel had foretold. The fifth is the Wise Men of the East, coming to Jerusalem, and the alarm of King Herod and the High Priests. The sixth and last part tells of the Wise Men being guided by the star and bringing their offerings to the side of the manger.
The great Bach, to whom the deeply sacred nature of these incidents was very real, and very sincerely felt, has invested the situations with a wealth of musical interest such as no other of the great personalities of art could have achieved. Although, in a sense, typical of the Teutonic religious sentiment of hig own age, it is so fine an embodiment of all that was best in that phase, that it may well stand as one of the greatest pieces of Christmas music for all time.
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