The orchestra welcomes Lizzy Hoyt’s trio as Celtic, folk, and symphonic meet in the merry middle just in time for the Holidays with seasonal selections, both traditional and original!
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Series 3 – Lizzy Hoyt’s Celtic-Folk Christmas
The original Celtic music and folk songs composed by Lizzy Hoyt intermingle seamlessly with ancient and traditional music also featured on this programme. Hoyt’s music reveals a deep knowledge of history and her rich imagery transports the listener to the many vivid locations in which the songs take place. Although a contemporary love song, the vividly descriptive Celtic love song Picture on my Heart feels like it could have been written hundreds of years ago. Home is a love song for the singer’s home province of Alberta and one can visualise the various locations unique to the Albertan landscape.
New Lady on the Prairie is a song that Hoyt wrote in honour of her great aunt who, in the early 1900s, came to Canada from Ireland. The veneration of history continues with Vimy Ridge, a tune about the famous battle in World War I where in April of 1917 Canadian troops captured the ridge from the Germans. These moving and evocative songs match perfectly with the centuries-old carols and hymns with which they are paired.
In the Bleak Midwinter was composed by Gustav Holst in 1906 at the request of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the musical editor of The English Hymnal. The lyrics chosen for the carol were originally a poem written by Christina Rossetti and published in 1872 for an edition of the American magazine Scribner’s Monthly. The words re-imagine the location of the Nativity and place it in a cold Northern country.
The widely popular I Saw Three Ships is known to have been sung since the fifteenth century and was first printed in 1666. There are a wide variety of interpretations of the lyrics, which describe the ships sailing into Bethlehem – which is landlocked. These ‘ships’ could refer to camels that carried the three wise men from the Bible, but it is often believed that the reference is to three ships that sailed into Cologne, Germany in the tenth century which were thought to be carrying the relics of the wise men.
Ashokan Farewell was composed by Jay Ungar in 1982 as a farewell song for his annual Ashokan Music & Dance Camp. As it gained popularity, it was most notably used as the theme for Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series The Civil War. It fits in perfectly with the authentic nineteenth-century music featured in the series.
V’la l’bon vent or Go Good Wind is an Acadian folk song that was known to the fur traders in Canada in the seventeenth century. As it gained popularity it spawned numerous variants, but the common theme is that it is a story about a prince who goes hunting and kills one of the three ducks in the song, angering the narrator.
Bel astre que j’adore or Beautiful Star that I Adore is a Christmas carol which originated in sixteenth-century France. It was first published in a collection of traditional folk tunes for the lute in 1611 by Gabriel Bataille. The lyrics implore the beautiful star, presumably Christ, not to ignore the singer’s love and faithfulness.
Sans Day Carol, also known as St. Day Carol, was written in St. Day, a village and parish in Cornwall, South West England. W.D. Watson, an expert in Cornish folklore and history, transcribed the carol in the early 1900s as it was sung to him by a local villager named Thomas Beard. The lyrics imagine holly as a symbol of Christ.
The melody of Ding Dong Merrily on High first appeared in a collection of French renaissance dance music published in 1589 by Jehan Tabourot, a French priest. George Ratcliffe Woodward, an English priest, was known to collect traditional melodies and give them religious texts. In this case, he wrote the words to the tune previously known as Branle de l’official, and had his frequent collaborator Charles Wood write the harmony. Woodward published the carol in The Cambridge Carol Book in 1924.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel started as a Latin plainchant antiphon, which dates back to the eighth century. The version which would become the hymn we know today was first documented in Germany in 1710. John Mason Neale, an Anglican priest, translated the verses into English, and Thomas Helmore, an English choirmaster, adapted the fifteenth century chant Veni Emmanuel and paired it with Neale’s translation. Helmore published O Come, O Come, Emmanuel in The Hymnal Noted in 1851.
Un Flambeau Jeanette-Isabelle or Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabelle is a French Christmas carol that originated in sixteenth-century Provence. It was originally published in Cantiques du Première Advenement de Jesus Christ, a French book of Christmas carols in 1553. This song tells a story of two farmhands named Jeanette and Isabelle who come upon the birth of Jesus in a stable. They run to tell the village folk who then arrive and are told to keep quiet while the baby sleeps.
Silent Night was composed for the Christmas Eve mass at St. Nicholas Parish Church in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818. Joseph Mohr, the priest at the church, wrote the lyrics, and asked local organist Franz Xaver Gruber to compose the music. One of the most popular Christmas carols of all time, UNESCO declared it an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ in 2011.
The music from Good King Wenceslas was taken from a thirteenth-century Finnish Easter carol entitled Tempus adest floridum, which was first published in 1582 in Piae Cantiones, a book of medieval songs. Another collaboration between John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, the carol we now know was published in 1853 and is notable in that it has no mention of the Nativity.
Wenceslas I (907 – 935), Duke of Bohemia and patron saint of the Czech Republic, is the subject of this carol in which he and his page brave the winter weather on December 26, also known as St Stephen’s Day. The page, who is unsure about the possibility of making the trip in the bitter cold, is encouraged to walk in the king’s footsteps in order to take food, wine and pine logs to a poor man.