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  • Ian Passmore

Passmore's Picks: The Holiday Playlist!

This month, I set out to make a playlist of holiday pieces that I hope you don’t already know. Or, if you do know them, you probably don’t know them or their composers by name. So, let’s get started!


1. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Christmas Overture


- Originally composed as incidental music in 1910, the Christmas Overture — taken from SCT’s The Forest of Wild Thyme — was arranged by Sydney Baynes in 1925, several years after Coleridge-Taylor’s death.


2. Frederick Delius, Sleigh Ride


- We’ve already covered Delius in Music that doesn't suck, No. 20. Sleigh Ride, properly titled Winter Night, is the second of his Three Small Tone Poems.


3. Arcangelo Corelli, Christmas Concerto


- Though its exact date of composition is uncertain, Corelli’s concerto grosso bears the inscription “Fatto per la notte di Natale,” or “made for the night of Christmas.”


4. George Whitefield Chadwick, Noël


- The second of Chadwick’s four Symphonic Sketches, Noël is accompanied by the following poem:


Through the soft, calm moonlight comes a sound;

A mother lulls her babe, and all around

The gentle snow lies glistening;

On such a night the Virgin Mother mild

In dreamless slumber wrapped the Holy Child,

While angel-hosts were listening.


5. Percy Grainger, The Sussex Mummer’s Christmas Carol


- We talked about Australia’s favorite mama’s boy in Music that doesn't suck, No. 4. Here is his program note for the Christmas Carol:


"The tune was noted by Miss Lucy E. Broadwood at Lyne, near Horsham (Sussex), in 1880 and 1881 from the singing of Christmas Mummers called 'Tipteers' or 'Tipteerers' during their play of Saint George, the Turk, and the seven champions of Christendom."


6. JS Bach, Christmas Oratorio


- A former teacher of mine once joked that JS Bach invented music — he’s THAT important. His masterful Christmas Oratorio was written for the holiday season of 1734. We covered JS Bach and his son CPE in Music that doesn't suck, No. 10.

7. Howard Hanson, Die Natalis


- One of Hanson’s most rarely performed works (and that’s saying a lot!), Dies Natalis is based on a Lutheran Christmas chorale. Hanson himself wrote the following about the chorale’s influence on his music:


"I used to sing it as a boy in the Swedish Lutheran Church of Wahoo, Nebraska. This chorale has, without doubt, been the greatest single musical influence in my life as a composer. Traces of the chorale appear in my early orchestra work, Lux Aeterna, and in sections of my opera, Merry Mount. The chorale form has also influenced by Chorale and Alleluia for band and my fourth and fifth symphonies for orchestra."


8. Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Pas de deux


- The Pas de deux is one of the final numbers in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and my favorite part of that particular ballet. Did you know that Tchaikovsky actually thought The Nutcracker was one of his worst pieces?!


9. William Henry Fry, Santa Claus Symphony


- Fry was an early American composer, and the first American-born composer to write for large orchestra. His 1853 Santa Claus Symphony leaves little to the imagination — it’s a nonstop orchestral Christmas party!


10. Serge Prokofiev, Troika


- The Troika is the penultimate movement from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite…it’s also a traditional Russian horse-drawn sled. Sleigh bells and plucked strings lend the Troika an unmistakable holiday atmosphere.


Happy Holidays, friends! :)


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