Advend and Christmas Concert 2005

Tonight's concert is subtitled "An English Style Carol Concert", which might seem at first sight to be a narrowing of scope towards a particular national tradition. In fact little has changed. Firstly the ESOC Chorus Christmas concert was always based on an English or, more broadly speaking, Anglo-Saxon tradition, albeit with a European flavour. Secondly, this tradition is marked by its eclecticism; far from being restricted to English sources, the carols are drawn from many lands, traditions and times. The New Oxford Book of Carols, arguably the premier modern collection of carols, obligingly gives an index according to national source, and this displays the remarkable diversity of its contents. Perhaps more than any country in the world, England has both preserved and expanded the carol tradition dating from the revival of interest in carols during Victorian times, continuing throughout the 20th
Century and still alive and vigorous in the 21st Century. A particular strong impetus to the tradition was given by the establishment of the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, first held on Christmas Eve, 1918 in the Chapel of King's College Cambridge. It was first broadcast in 1928 and with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast ever since, even during World War II. It has become the golden standard against which all such services are compared. The choice of carols is drawn from the broad English tradition and the custom of
commissioning a new carol every year serves is a source of enrichment and expansion this tradition. The readings ("lessons"), which form an important component of the "Lessons and Carols" have also spilled into the concert hall, where readings of Christmas texts and poems are often heard in carol concerts. Our regular patrons will recognise all these features in the ESOC Chorus Christmas Concert, as well as the opportunity to join in with the Chorus in
carols by candlelight, where, of course, we retain German carols for the benefit of our many German friends.

The concert also reflects this expanding carol tradition by including works by contemporary composers. The first is a fine setting from Braxton Blake (b. 1954 Galveston, Texas) of the mystical poem "The Burning Babe", by the English Jesuit and poet and martyr, Robert Southwell (1561-1595). Secondly we have "Christmas Lullaby" by one of the most popular English composers, John Rutter, to mark 2005 as the year of his 60th birthday. There is also a
lively carol by the US composer Rosephanye Powell (b. 1962) entitled "Who is the baby", written "in the style of a spiritual".
Finally 2005 is the quincentenary of the famous English Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), which we mark, not with a specifically Christmas piece, but with one of his so called English Anthems: "O Lord in Thee is all my Trust"