Russell Ger will introduce each bracket of carols. Please reserve
applause until the end of each bracket
*Congregational Carol: please join us in singing (words are printed
in this program)
We regret that owing to our inability to obtain scores we are
unable to present Dvoráks Mass in D major, as previously
Yuletide Greetings, Gentle Concert Goer
It is with great pleasure that I introduce myself to you as the
new musical director of Bel A Cappella. I have been part of the
Bel community for only a few months now, and I feel very lucky to
have been given the opportunity to work with such a wonderful ensemble.
We have put together a delightful selection of seasonal music for
you to enjoy today. The core work for the program is Benjamin Brittens
magnificent setting of old English poetry in his A Ceremony of Carols,
which portrays different aspects of the Christmas story through
distinctly contrasting music. Be sure to listen for the tone-painting
devices Britten uses to mirror the poetry. For example, in the text
of This Little Babe, the infant Christ is used metaphorically
as a symbol for the battle between good and evil. In order to reflect
this musically, Britten pits the different sections of the choir
against one another in close imitation to try and capture the urgency
of the struggle. The final chorus uses another example of tone-painting
and the entire work climaxes in torrents of overlapping declamations
from all sections of the choir of Deo Gracias, signifying
our unending thanks to God.
Following the Britten you will hear several traditional Christmas
pieces, including such favourites as Away in a Manger and the gorgeous
Es ist ein Ros. I have then chosen some music to reflect the
very special and unique experience of Christmas-time in Australia.
You will hear music from our most famous composer, Peter Sculthorpe,
as well as traditional Australian carols that sing of our native
flora and fauna and of the red dust of our outback. The first half
concludes with the rollicking Wassail song of Vaughan Williams.
Wassailing is the customary drinking song of carollers, and Vaughan
Williams creates the marvellous effect of a merry bunch approaching
from far and then disappearing off in to the distance, all the while
The second half of the program is comprised of music that I feel
will set the tone for a beautiful Christmas season. We will be performing
a wide variety of works, from the sublime Latin settings of Victoria,
to the fervent Zulu church song, and finally to the carols that
are as much a part of Christmas as Christmas pudding itself. In
these pieces I heartily encourage you to join in.
I would like to share what all this music means to me personally.
I think that there is no greater embodiment of the ideal of peace
than voices joined together in harmony. There are endlessly relevant
recurring themes in all these pieces, of peace among men and joy
to the world. I pray that you leave here today more filled with
that spirit of hope and love, and that you share this with everyone
I look forward to seeing you again in an exciting 2005.
God Bless and Merry Christmas,
Bel a cappella
This year, Bel a cappella celebrates its tenth year of activity.
Formed in 1995 under Katrina Jenns, the choir has made many festival
appearances, including the Blue Mountains Spirit of the Wind
Arts Festival, the Newtown Festival and the A cappella Association
Music Festival. Bel a cappella also competed in the Sydney and National
McDonalds Performing Arts Challenges from 1995 to 1998.
From 1999 to mid 2004, Musical Director Matthew Wood led Bel a
cappella to further develop its repertoire and the range of its
performances. In 2000 and 2001 the choir performed at the Hunter
Valley Harvest Festival with sponsor Piggs Peake Winery in two acclaimed
Bring me Wine! concerts featuring Byrds Mass for Three Voices
and Purcells Celebrate this Festival, alongside medieval and
modern drinking songs.
Most recent highlights include the Australian premiere performance
of the original 1888 score of Faurés Requiem, reconstructed
by Matthew Wood; a concert of Purcells Dido and Æneas
with the Bel Chamber Ensemble on period instruments; two live broadcasts
on ABC Radio Nationals Late Night Live show with Philip Adams;
Brittens Rejoice in the Lamb; Mozarts Requiem; Haydns
Nelson Mass; Kodàlys Missa brevis; J S
Bachs motet Jesu, meine Freude and the premier of Andrew Robbies
Joyce Songs; Handels Messiah and Coronation Anthems and Charpentiers
Midnight Mass for Christmas.
Upon Matthews departure in 2004 to study in Manchester, Bel
a cappella appointed Russell Ger as Musical Director. Since 2001
Bel a cappella has sung at the Vaucluse House Carols by Candlelight
with the NSW Police Band. The group is also available to perform
for weddings and functions.
Russell Ger musical director
Russell Ger is in his Honours year of a Bachelor of Music from
the University of New South Wales. Russell was a classical voice
major throughout his degree but majored in conducting for his Honours
year. He began conducting at the age of 18, when he was invited
to participate in the Young Conductors Development and Leadership
Programme under the direction of renowned American pedagogue Dale
Lonis. Since that time, Russell has been increasingly active as
a young conductor.
In 2003, Russell gave his Sydney Opera House debut to critical
acclaim when he conducted the last movement of Beethovens
Ninth Symphony. For this performance he conducted members of the
Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra,
in conjunction with a massed communal choir. At the start of 2004,
Russell conducted in Melbourne as Guest Conductor with the State
Orchestra of Victoria. He also auditioned successfully as a participant
in Symphony Australias prestigious conducting master-classes
and consequently travelled to Brisbane to work with The Queensland
Orchestra, and to Adelaide to work with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
As a component of his Honours program, Russell has served as Guest
Conductor with the Orchestra of the University of New South Wales,
as Assistant Conductor with the Burgundian Vocal Consort, and as
founding Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the U.N.S.W.
Camerata Chamber Ensemble, with members of the Australian Chamber
In 2005, as well as directing Bel a cappella, Russell will again
be participating in the Symphony Australia young conductors scheme
and subsequently hopes to travel to Europe or the United States
to further his studies.
Sarah Kim Organ
Sarah Kim was born in 1983 in Cologne, Germany and started learning
the organ when she was 11 years old, gaining her A.Mus.A four years
later. She is now in her second year of a B.Mus. performance course
at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she is studying organ
with Philip Swanton.
Her outstanding abilities as a young organist were recognised over
the last two years by the Conservatorium with the award of the Sarah
and Muriel Jeavons Memorial Scholarship. Last year she also
took first prize in the Open Championship pipe organ section of
the Warringah Eisteddfod. In addition to her win in the Sydney Organ
Competition this year, Sarah has featured on the cover of the Sydney
Sarah has given numerous solo performances around Sydney and is
increasingly in demand as an accompanist. Prominent performances
this year have included the premier of Richard Meales fanfare
for organ, trumpet and percussion at the AMC Classical Music Awards
and performances as part of the 30th birthday celebrations of the
Sydney Opera House. Currently she is the Organ Scholar at St James
Anglican Church in King St, Sydney and the University of Sydney.
Marjorie Maydwell harp
On completion of her studies at the Conservatorium High School
in Sydney, Marjorie Maydwell was awarded an Arts Council grant to
study at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris,
France. There she studied harp with Marie-Claire Jamet and Catherine
Michel and solfege with Mme Jacqueline Lequin. While in France,
she was also awarded a Spanish Government Scholarship to study in
Granada under the world-renowned harpist, Nicanor Zabeletta. Marjorie
Maydwell remains the only Australian harpist to have graduated from
the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris, the most
eminent school of harp in the world.
As Professor of Harp and Solfege at the Conservatoire de Maurice
Ravel, she went on to record and perform in Europe with Les Jeunes
Solistes de Paris, and worked under such distinguished conductors
as Pierre Boulez and Armin Jordan. She performed in several Fêtes
de la Musique in Paris - in the St Chapelle, St Eustache & St
Augustin and also appeared in the Salle Pleyel and Le Théâtre
des Champs-Élysées. In Spain she participated in the
Granada Festival at the famous Alhambra Palace.
On her return to Australia, she has given various solo performances
as well as appearing with major orchestras, the Australian Opera
and the Australia Ensemble. Marjorie Maydwells path has taken
her from classical through to jazz, exploring unusual repertoire
and pushing boundaries, in such diverse venues as Diane Cilentos
Karnak Playhouse in Far North Queensland, to the magnificent stone
Chapel at Kincoppal Rose Bay.
A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28 (1942)
Edward Benjamin Britten (November 22, 1913December 4, 1976)
Arranged for Mixed voices by Julius Harrison
The composition of A Ceremony of Carols was commenced while returning
by sea to Britain from an extended sojourn in the United States.
The piece was inspired in part by Britten's acquisition of a book
of 15th and 16th century English poetry, but also by his intention
to write a harp concerto: his study of the instrument's repertoire
and technique while in the United States certainly bore fruit this
work, both as a solo and accompanying instrument.
Humphrey Carpenter's contention, in his biography of Britten, that
the title of the work is incongruous bears consideration. A Ceremony
of Carols is ceremonial in that it begins and ends with a plainchant
processional, and the individual pieces, except for the harp interlude,
are all carols; however, these carols do not all necessarily attend
to the Christmas feast. At one extreme is the Spring Carol
more appropriate to Easter than Yuletide while other
of the pieces refer more generally to the cult of Mary than to the
Theotokos of Christmastide: the medieval logic of Deo Gracias
would fit equally the Feasts of the Assumption or the Immaculate
Conception. That said, there is a unity in conception in the work:
it is as if Britten takes a longer and more complete view of the
central Christian myth from the innocence and unrestrained joy of
Wolcum Yole!, through the promise of Christ's ministry
to His and our ultimate human frailty. In the end, A Ceremony of
Carols sets out to celebrate all that Christmas represents and its
diverse meditations return to the opening thought: today the righteous
should rejoice and say, Glory to God in the Highest.
The arrangement we sing today retains the lightness that the harp
lends to the work, while Harrison's reworking vocal parts for mixed
voices serves to fill out textures implied in the original without
Sung Texts & Translations
Hodie Christus natus est (Processional from A
Ceremony of Carols)