An American Symphonic Portrait

MSO May 2016 concert poster


It’s not often that you get two concerts from us, one right after the other, but it is your lucky day! The Murray Symphony is excited to announce a collaborative concert series with the Evanston Civic Orchestra. First, April 30th, will be in Evanston and then back in good ‘ole Murray May 14th.


Below, are the program notes for the concert on May 14th. We can’t wait to see you there.


American music took some time to find it’s voice.  For many years as the country grew artists and musicians relied on the sounds and styles they knew from European countries. At the beginning of the 20th Century, there emerged a different sound. Not only more modern, but more distinctly American.  Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Leroy Anderson created sounds that uniquely represent the free spirit and thinking of this vast country. They mixed traditional folk songs and rhythms with conventional forms and harmonies to create an “American” sound.


 An American in Paris Suite – George Gershwin arranged John Whitney


An American in Paris is a jazz-influenced symphonic poem by the American composer George Gershwin, written in 1928. Inspired by the time Gershwin had spent in Paris, it evokes the sights and energy of the French capital in the 1920s and is one of his best-known compositions. It was written after he and his brother, Ira, returned from a 3-week vacation in Paris. George had composed a small piece called “Very Parisienne” in 1926 and was trying to expand it into an orchestral work during this trip.

When he returned home, bringing several taxi horns with him, he completed the piece that he called a “rhapsodic ballet”. It was “the most modern work he had yet attempted”. It loosely tells the story of an American exploring the sights and sounds of Paris. Although not a program piece, it has program, or storytelling, elements in it that were interpreted by Gene Kelly in the Academy Award-winning motion picture of the same name in 1951.

In his original program notes Gershwin said, “: “My purpose here is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere.” When the tone poem moves into the blues, “our American friend … has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness.” But, “nostalgia is not a fatal disease.” The American visitor “once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life” and “the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.”

Although it was well received, not everyone could accept this new, modern mix of classic and jazz. Gershwin responded to the critics, “It’s not a Beethoven Symphony, you know… It’s a humorous piece, nothing solemn about it. It’s not intended to draw tears. If it pleases symphony audiences as a light, jolly piece, a series of impressions musically expressed, it succeeds.”

It was written in 3 months and was completed only 3 weeks before it premiered at Carnegie Hall, New York, on December 13, 1928 with the New York Philharmonic, Walter Damrosch (conductor).

About George Gershwin – 26 September – 11 July 1937

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York. He taught himself to play the piano at a friend’s house by following how the keys moved on a player piano. When the Gershwins finally got their own piano, George surprised everyone by sitting down and playing the songs he had learned by himself.

Gershwin left school at age 15, and started earning wages as a piano player/songwriter. He worked for a few different companies, writing songs, recording, and arranging them. He wrote several Broadway shows, musical comedies, many songs, one opera, music for classical orchestra and so on. He also wrote music for movies 

George liked to compose both classical and popular music, and found a unique way to combine the two. He composed his most famous work, Rhapsody in Blue, in 1924, the same year he also had a hit show on Broadway. Gershwin also wrote the first uniquely American opera, Porgy and Bess.

George Gershwin was unique in the fact that he composed both “classical” and popular music. Most of us even today know some of Gerswin’s tunes, because they have been used so much in movies, in TV, and recorded so many times.

Gershwin did not get married and did not have children. He did have a girlfriend though, Kay Swift. Gershwin died young, at the age of 39 years, from brain cancer.

New England Holiday – Robert Washburn b. 1928

Commissioned by the New England Music Camp for its fiftieth anniversary concert, this effective piece draws upon New England folk songs and original material for the thematic motifs. As is characteristic of Robert Washburn’s style, this piece is contemporary in nature and highly effective. It has a rhythmic opening, and is light-hearted, providing easy listening. It has recurring themes in the manner of a rondo.

Robert Washburn was born at Bouckville, New York, in 1928. He studied composition and earned his Doctorate at the Eastman School of Music. He made several trips to Africa and Asia, and has produced some works with a distinctly non-Western flavor, such as Impressions of Cairo and Kilimanjaro.


West Side Story Selections – Leonard Bernstein arranged Jack Mason

West Side Story is an American musical from a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernsteinlyrics by Stephen Sondheim and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It was inspired by William Shakespeare‘s play Romeo and Juliet.

The story is set in the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood. (In the early 1960s much of the neighborhood would be cleared in an urban renewal project for the Lincoln Center, changing the neighborhood’s character.) The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, are taunted by the Jets, a white gang.[4] The young protagonist, Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theater. Bernstein’s score for the musical includes “Something’s Coming“, “Maria“, “America“, “Somewhere“, “Tonight“, “Jet Song”, “I Feel Pretty“, “A Boy Like That“, “One Hand, One Heart“, “Gee, Officer Krupke“, and “Cool“.

In 1961a musical film of the same name, directed by Robert Wise and Robbins, starred Natalie WoodRichard BeymerRita MorenoGeorge Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won ten. The nominees were, George Chakiris for Supporting Actor, Rita Moreno for Supporting Actress, and the Best Picture.

It was released on October 18, 1961 through United Artists, the film received high praise from critics and the public, and became the second highest grossing film of the year in the United States. The film was nominated for 11Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture (as well as a special award for Robbins), becoming the record holder for the most wins for a movie musical.

From “Rotten tomatoes” review: Critics Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise’s dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein’s score, and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.

Last year, 2015 “West Side Story” toured worldwide. Showing the lasting nature and power of this amazing musical.

An Outdoor Overture – Aaron Copland

In his autobiography, Aaron Copland acknowledges that An Outdoor Overture owes its existence to the persuasive powers of Alexander Richter, Head of the Music Department of the High School of Music and Art {New York}.  “I liked the idea…. that gifted students could prepare their careers in the arts at such a school without sacrificing a general education.”  Richter promised to make Copland’s music the “opening gun” for a campaign, called “American Music for American Youth” and it would feature music that was “optimistic in tone, which would have a definite appeal to the adolescent youth of this country.”

Copland was so impressed that he interrupted work on the orchestration of his ballet Billy the Kid in the fall of 1938 to compose a short piece for the School’s orchestra. 

When Copland played the piano sketch for Richter, the latter remarked that it seemed to have an open-air quality.  Together, they hit on the title An Outdoor Overture.

The overture premiered successfully in December 1938 (ironically, indoors) at the high school and the following year, it began to appear regularly on the programs of symphony orchestras.  Unfortunately, the work’s original association with a school orchestra prejudiced some critics against it as “kid’s stuff.”  However, Elliot Carter, writing in Modern Music, declared that Copland’s overture “contains some of his finest and most personal music…. It is Copland in his prophetic vein which runs through all his works…”  In his own program note on the Outdoor Overture, Copland offers the following description:

“The piece starts in a large and grandiose manner with a theme that is immediately developed as a long solo for the trumpet with a string pizzicato accompaniment.  A short bridge passage in the woodwinds leads imperceptibly to the first theme of the allegro section, characterized by repeated notes.  Shortly afterwards, these same repeated notes, played broadly, give us a second, snappy march-like theme, developed in a canon form.  There is an abrupt pause, a sudden decrescendo, and the third, lyric theme appears, first in the flute, then the clarinet, and finally, high up in the strings.  Repeated notes on the bassoon seem to lead the piece in the direction of the opening allegro.  Instead, a fourth and final theme evolves another march theme, but this time less snappy, and with more serious implications.  There is a build-up to the opening grandiose introduction again, continuing with the trumpet solo melody, this time sung by all the strings in a somewhat smoother version.  A short bridge section based on steady rhythm brings a condensed recapitulation of the allegro section.  As a climactic moment all the themes are combined.  A brief coda ends the work on the grandiose note of the beginning.”

It is a window into an important period in Copeland’s career, as he developed the musical language that would be associated both with him and with the broader idea of Americana in classical music in the following decades.

Copland’s contemporary, composer Elliott Carter, wrote that the work “…contains some of the finest and most personal music. Its opening is as lofty and beautiful as any passage that has been written by a contemporary composer.”

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is one of the titans of American art music.  He was born in New York and studied in France. After trying many other styles, he settled on a uniquely American sound which included many American folk songs and tunes. His works include: The Tender Land (1954), Billy The Kid (1938), and Appalachian Spring (1944).  He won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1945 for Appalachian Spring.  He was also an acclaimed conductor and writer.


Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990

Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston area. His father sold wigs and beauty supplies, and wanted his oldest son to take over the business. But after Leonard—or Lenny, as all his friends called him— composed the class song for his high school graduation, he went on to Harvard and majored in music. Leonard Bernstein had his big break when he was the 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. At the last minute, he stepped in to conduct a concert in Carnegie Hall that was broadcast live over the radio all across America. The audience loved Overture to Candide, and him, and the event made front page headlines in the newspaper. When Bernstein was eventually named music director of the New York Philharmonic, he was the first American to become a permanent conductor of a major American orchestra. Leonard Bernstein used television, which was brand-new at the time, to bring classical music to a very wide audience through his Young People’s Concerts. Bernstein also loved to compose music theatre. His musicals include On The Town, Wonderful Town and West Side Story.


Leroy Anderson Favorites arranged by Calvin Custer

Included: Blue Tango, Belle of the Ball, The Syncopated Clock, Serenate.

Leroy Anderson June 29, 1908 – May 18, 1975

Leroy Anderson was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur FiedlerJohn Williams described him as “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”

Many people consider Anderson to be one of America’s four greatest 20th century composers of instrumental music, alongside George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Charles Ives. Anderson’s musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper.

His music is so catchy; lyrics were sometimes added to his music after the pieces were written. Mitchell Parish added words to “Syncopated Clock”, and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including “Sleigh Ride”, which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was a church organist. He was so gifted that he entered New England Conservatory of Music and age 11 to study piano and organ. In 1925 he composed, orchestrated, and conducted the Cambridge High and Latin School orchestra in the class song for his graduation. He was in high school when his father bought him a trombone so that he could play in the front row of the Harvard University Band where he would be going to college

In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard University, where he studied musical harmony, counterpoint, canon and fugue, orchestration, composition and double bass. He also studied organ. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Magna cum laude in 1929 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In Harvard University Graduate School, he studied composition and received a Master of Arts in Music in 1930.

After college, Anderson became Director of the Harvard University Band and wrote numerous clever arrangements for the band that brought him to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, Director of the Boston Pops Orchestra. His first arrangement for Fiedler in 1936 was a medley of Harvard songs called Harvard Fantasy.

He was a gifted linguist and pursued graduate studies at Harvard toward a Ph.D. in languages because he was unsure that music was a viable career choice. Because of these studies he was drafted in the Army during world War II and worked in Iceland with the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corp. At the end of the war he declined an offer to become the assistant military attaché in Stockholm to pursue music full time.

In 1936 he was asked by George Judd, Manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to write an arrangement for the Boston Pops and thus came to the attention of the Boston Pops music director, Arthur Fiedler. Fiedler encouraged Anderson to bring him any original works. In 1938 the Boston Pops performed his first original composition for orchestra, Jazz Pizzicato.  Soon after that the Pops premiered it. From then on Anderson wrote a steady stream of his miniature orchestral masterworks.

In 1951 Anderson wrote his first hit, “Blue Tango.” He as trying to write light concert music to be played by symphony orchestras and ended up with a “top single” in 1952. It was on the top of the hit parade for 22 weeks and was played in juke boxes and on the radio in the U.S. and Europe.  It was the first instrumental recording ever to sell on million copies.

In the early 1950’s, CBS-TV chose The Syncopated Clock as the theme for its new program “The Late Show.” CBS used it for more than 25 years. Plink, Plank, Plunk! was known to many in the 1950’s as the theme for the TV game show “I’ve Got a Secret”, and The Typewriter has become a favorite for a variety of radio news productions.

Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. In 1988 the Anderson family decided to publish the work. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work; four other recordings, including one for piano and organ, have since been released.

He conducted his own orchestra for Decca Records from 1950 to 1962. His popularity as a composer was at an unprecedented high. Never before had a symphonic composer been given an orchestra to conduct and record freshly written music. He gave the first performances of many pieces at the same time that they were being recorded!

In 1958, he composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including “The Typewriter,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” and “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby” are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.

Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For “The Typewriter” Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.

Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omicron chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.

He passed away on May 18, 1975; 13 years later, he was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Orchestras across America made Anderson‘s catalog one of the most performed in the country during his heyday; what was more, Anderson wrote different arrangements of his works for musicians of all different skill levels, helping ensure their accessibility and permanence in the orchestral/band repertoire.

Anderson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976 and was elected posthumously to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988. His music is frequently used to entertain visiting dignitaries at the White House as well as to greet U.S. Presidents when visiting foreign countries.

Composer and conductor John Williams has praised Anderson’s music. Williams has said about Leroy Anderson: “Though we have performed his works countless times over the years at the Boston Pops, his music remains forever as young and fresh as the very first day on which it was composed.”

Raiders March, John Williams

“The Raiders March,” Indiana Jones‘ theme, was originally two songs simply played on piano by composer John Williams. One was the “march” the other, “Marion’s love theme”. Williams had initially composed the melodies of both as possibilities for the opening of Indy’s theme. When he approached Steven Spielberg (director of Raiders of the Lost Ark) with the themes, asking which one he would prefer, Spielberg loved them so much that he said “well, can’t you use both?” And so Williams did, one in the A section, the other in the B section (or “bridge”).  Together they became “The Raider’s March”. The song was composed around 1980 and it has been used in every movie and also appears in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to represent Harrison Ford‘s portrayal of the character.

The full version of The Raiders March includes a section of the love theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark, otherwise known as Marion’s Theme. The shorter version excluding this section is sometimes referred to simply as Indiana Jones’ Theme. The music was first heard in its entirety during the ending credits of the first film.

While primarily being a leitmotif, or a recurring musical theme, for Indiana Jones, the theme also makes several more whimsical appearances within The Adventures of Mutt, the theme music for Indy’s son, Mutt Williams, as heard in full on the CD album. In fact, as Mutt swings from vine to vine in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Raiders March plays robustly in the background. It is clear that Mutt has inherited not only part of his father’s sense of adventure, but also a part of his rousing music.

Ever since its first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Raiders March has been such a recognizable symbol of Indiana Jones that we associate it with the character as much as we do his trademark bullwhip and fedora. And like other John Williams themes, it’s not just that the theme represents the character, but that it does so in such an appropriate way that it would be hard to imagine something different working this well. In large part, this is because of Williams’ remarkable ability to coordinate many different parameters of the music with various facets of the thing it represents, in this case, Indy himself.

It is also fitting that Indy’s music should lack the overwhelming grandiosity of other superheroes’ themes since his victories are more brainy than brawny. His music also portrays him as more of a human, earthbound type of hero than, say, Luke Skywalker or Superman. Instead, this is an untroubled kind of music for an untroubled kind of hero, one who always achieves a clear success. Even so, his adventures and his music are still a source of tremendous excitement. Not only does it capture Indy’s heroism and confidence, but it also incorporates the fun, lighter side of Indy’s personality

The march is divided into a large three-part form, of which the first part is Indy’s theme, the second Marion’s theme, and the third an abbreviated return to Indy’s theme.


Jubilee, Ron Nelson

Ron Nelson is a composer of both classical and popular music and a retired music academic. . His music is eclectic, showing diverse influences from Indonesian to Jazz. In the 1960s he became interested in non-Western music, and began to experiment with pieces that would be conducive to meditation. Some works show the influence of Indian ragas, with their barely perceptible changes capable of an almost hypnotic effect on the listener.

His work shows him to be fully aware of the variety of experimentation in the twentieth century, with its serial, atonal, and even aleatoric (chance) techniques, but for the most part retains the concept of tonal centers.

Jubilee is a short, light piece, conservative in concept, making little demand on the listener. There is a soaring melody in the first part and an extended fugal section near the end. Although it was written in 1960, when he was falling under the spell of the Orient,it bears little evidence of that influence. Nelson wrote some film scores, and this piece represents him in that frame of mind.

He was a native of JolietIllinois, Ron Nelson was born December 14, 1929. He studied composition at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester earning a bachelor’s degree in 1952, a master’s degree in 1953, and a doctorate in composition in 1957. In 1954-1955 he studied with Tony Aubin in France at the Ecole Normale de Musique and at the Paris Conservatory under a Fulbright Grant. In 1956, Dr. Nelson joined the faculty of Brown University in ProvidenceRhode Island, where he served as chairman of the music department from 1963 to 1973, retiring as Professor Emeritus, in 1993.

In 1991, Dr. Nelson was awarded the Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts, the first musician to hold the chair. His Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) was the first piece to win all three major wind band composition prizes during one period — the National Band Association Prize, the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award, and the Sudler International Prize. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by the John Philip Sousa Foundation in 1994. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Nelson has received numerous commissions, including those from the National Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, the USAF Band and Chorus, Musashino Wind Ensemble, Aspen Festival and numerous colleges and universities. He has also received grants and awards from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Howard Foundation, ASCAP, and several from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Conductor Leonard Slatkin may have described Ron Nelson best: “Nelson is the quintessential American composer. He has the ability to move between conservative and newer styles with ease. The fact that he’s a little hard to categorize is what makes him interesting.” (Los Angeles Daily News, February 19, 1996)

As of August 2012, Ron Nelson resided with his wife Michele in ScottsdaleArizona.

Celebrating the “3 B’s”

circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750). German organist and composer: oil on canvas, 1720, by J.J. Ihle.
(1685-1750). German organist and composer: oil on canvas, 1720, by J.J. Ihle.


The Three B’s. What could be better than experiencing a night of Brahms, Bach and Beethoven?


Come join us on March 12th at 7:30 Pm. **The Concert Hall at Murray High school** beckons you to submerse yourself in the grandeur and talent of three of the greatest composers of all time. Who knew that they would all have the same last initials? Coincidence? I think not.

Tickets at the door are $6 for adults. 10 and under are free.


** A correction in the location of the concert was made 24 Feb 2016. I sincerely apologize for the oversight.**

Sounds of the Season – 12 Dec 2015

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Christmas Concert 2015

Come one and all and celebrate the festive Christmas Season with us.  The music of this concert comes from all over the world. From Russia, to Ireland, to the good ol’ USA. We have so many guests coming, as well, that you’ll have to see it to believe it.

Christmas Hymn

We Three Kings

White Christmas

Russian Christmas Music

Celtic Myst

Celtic Christmas

O Come, O Come

Hark, the Herald

Silent Night


Christmas Hymn

By Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Arr. David T. Clydesdale

This instrumental arrangement of “Christmas Hymn” (originally recorded by Amy Grant and co-written by Grant and Michael W. Smith) is by David T. Clydesdale. It used to play as part of the ‘Lights of Winter’ show at Epcot in Walt Disney World. The combination of sound and light creates an amazing experience for Christmas.

A Christmas Album is the seventh album by Christian music singer Amy Grant, released in 1983. The release was Grant’s first of many Christmas albums. A Christmas Album featured well-known religious and secular standards alongside original songs.


Carol of the Three Kings

Arr. Paul H. Anderson

This exciting arrangement of 2 well-known Christmas songs was written by a member of the Murray Symphony, Paul Anderson.

Paul Anderson

Paul began playing music at a young age when his parents had him start taking piano lesson.  In 1968, he started playing the trombone and have never stopped.  Throughout his life, he’s performed in all sorts of groups, from marching band to full symphonies, from jazz and swing bands to brass chorales, from concert bands to pep bands.  During all this, he’s always been fascinated on how music is put together.  How do various composers achieve all those beautiful sounds?  Eventually, he wondered if, based on a lifetime of listening and performing, he could compose music.  A previous conductor offered some encouragement and help with his first composition.  Since then, he’s composed several pieces for Murray Symphony.  This one, Carol of the Three Kings, melds together three of his favorite Christmas songs.

“We Three Kings”, also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi”, is a Christmas carol that was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., in 1857.  He wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City. Many versions of this song have been composed, but it remains the most popular and most frequently sung Christmas carol today.

“Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol composed by Mykola Leontovych in 1904 with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on a folk chant known in Ukrainian as “Shchedryk“. The song is recognized by a four-note ostinato motif. It has been arranged many times for different genres, styles of singing. The song is based on a traditional folk chant and is sung for a celebration known a Shchedrivky.  It was associated with the coming New Year, which, in pre-Christian Ukraine, was originally celebrated with the coming of spring in April.

The original Ukrainian text tells the tale of a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful and bountiful year that the family will have. The title is derived from the Ukrainian word for “bountiful”. The period for the birth of animals and the return of swallows to Ukraine, however, does not correspond to the current calendar season of winter.

With the introduction of Christianity to Ukraine, and the adoption of the Julian calendar, the celebration of the New Year was moved from April to January, and the holiday with which the chant was originally associated became Malanka (Ukrainian: Щедрий вечір Shchedry vechir), the eve of the Julian New Year (the night of 13–14 January) in the Gregorian calendar

It was introduced to Western audiences by the Ukrainian National Chorus during its concert tour of Europe and the Americas, where it premiered in the United States on October 5, 1921 at Carnegie Hall. A copyrighted English text was created by Peter Wilhousky in the 1930s, and since then it has been performed and sung during the Christmas season. Its initial popularity stemmed largely from Wilhousky’s ability to perform it to a wide audience in his role as arranger for the NBC Symphony Orchestra, trained especially for Arturo Toscanini. The song would later be assisted to further popularity by featuring in television advertisements for champagne.  An alternate English version (“Ring, Christmas Bells”) featuring more Nativity-based lyrics, written by Minna Louise Hohman in 1947, is also common.

The original work was intended to be sung a cappella by mixed four-voice choir. Two other settings of the composition were also created by Leontovych: one for women’s choir (unaccompanied) and another for children’s choir with piano accompaniment. These are rarely performed or recorded.


Russian Christmas Music

By Alfred Reed

Arr. For orchestra by Clark McAlister

Russian Christmas Music Russian Christmas Music is a musical piece for symphonic band, written by Alfred Reed in 1944. It is one of the most popular and frequently performed pieces of concert band literature. Alfred Reed was a 23 year old staff arranger for the 529th Army Air Corps Band when he was called upon to create what has become a masterpiece of the wind literature. It was in 1944, when optimism was running high with the successful invasion of France and Belgium by the Allied forces. A holiday band concert was planned by the city of Denver to further promote Russian-American unity with premiers of new works from both countries. Roy Harris was placed in charge and planned the second movement of his Sixth Symphony (the “Abraham Lincoln Symphony”) to be the American work. The Russian work was to have been Prokofiev’s March, Op. 99, but Harris discovered that it had already been performed in the United States (by Reed’s own organization). With just 16 days until the concert, Harris assigned Reed, already working for Harris as an aid, to compose a new Russian work for the concert. Scouring the Corp’s music library, Reed found an authentic 16thcentury Russian Christmas Song “Carol of the Little Russian Children” to use for an introductory theme. Drawing on his investigations of Eastern Orthodox liturgical music for other thematic ideas, he completed the score of Russian Christmas Music in 11 days; copyists took another two days to prepare parts for rehearsal. The music was first performed on December 12, 1944, on a nationwide NBC broadcast. A concert performance was given in Denver two days later. In later years, Reed made minor changes to the instrumentation to suit a large ensemble, but today’s version is essentially the same as the original.

The song is also the official corps song of the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps.

Although Russian Christmas Music consists of only one movement, it can be readily divided into four sections:


  • The opening section, Carol of the Little Russian Children, is based on a 16th century Russian Christmas carol. It is slow throughout; after a quiet opening by the chimes, contrabass clarinet, and string bass, the clarinets carry the melody. The other voices join in, and the section ends with a series of chords.
  • The Antiphonal Chant is faster and louder, with the melody initially carried by the trombones, horns, trumpets, and cornets. The woodwinds join in, and the music becomes more and more frenzied until the section ends loudly.
  • The Village Song is much gentler by comparison; the English Horn has two solos, with soli in the flutes and a solo in the horns at the end of each. The piece enters a time signature of 6/4; the band plays a series of cantabile two-bar phrases back and forth between the woodwinds and brass, with the string bass playing long strings of eighth-notes, which are passed along to the bells. The song becomes quieter again, and the section ends with another English horn solo.
  • The Cathedral Chorus starts quietly, as the end of Village Song, but a crescendo in the trombones and percussion brings the rest of the band in majestically. The music builds to a climax, but then backs down for a final chorale in the woodwinds; the sound builds once again, and the piece concludes with a thundering chorale marked by liberal use of the chimes and tam-tam as well as soaring horn counterpoint.


The piece was performed for the 2005 “Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square” concert arranged for full orchestra and choir (last section only), set as the accompaniment of a story revolving around a widowed man and his 8-year-old daughter in 1917 Siberia. The story was narrated by British actress Claire Bloom.


Clark McAlister

The American music editor and arranger, Clark McAlister, came to Miami in 1977 to further his studies under Frederick Fennell at the University of Miami. He joined the Florida Philharmonic as Assistant Conductor, Librarian, and Personnel Manager. He met the Galisons (Joan, Larry and Leon) in 1979 at a party given by the orchestra’s conductor, Emerson Buckley. In 1981, Clark McAlister began to work part-time at Kalmus Music Publishers, becoming full-time a year later. In 1998, Joan Galison retired as President of Kalmus. Leon Galison became President, Clark McAlister was named Vice-President, and Larry Galison became Chairman of the Board.

Alfred Reed Stated, “I am delighted to say that Clark McAlister’s transcription of this music, made under my supervision, meets with my unqualified approval and recommendation as having entered so closely into the letter and spirit of the original scoring as to be, truly believe, indistinguishable from my own approach, had I had the time and opportunity of preparing it myself, in response to Col. Arnald Gabriel’s kind offer of a commission for making this music available to orchestras as well as the wind bands for which it was originally conceived.”


White Christmas for vocal solo and Orchestra

Words and Music by Irving Berlin

Arranged by John Moss

White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin in 1940. He was spending the winter in a warm retreat. When Bing Crosby performed it on NBC in 1941 many of our troops were fighting in the warm Pacific and it became a poignant reminder to them of the life they left behind for a time.

According to the Guinness World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide. Other versions of the song, along with Bing Crosby’s, have sold over 150 million copies.

In 1942 it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song after it was featured in the musical Holiday Inn. It later became the title for another musical in 1954 which became the highest-grossing film of 1954.

John Moss (the arranger of the piece) was active nationwide as a composer, arranger, and orchestrator in a wide variety of musical styles and formats. As a composer, he had an extensive background creating original music for documentary, educational, and promotional films. As an arranger, he provided music for many live large-scale musical revues and production shows.

He taught at both public school (band and choir) and university (theory) levels in Michigan. John’s music is a major contribution to the band and orchestra catalog of educational music publisher Hal Leonard Corporation and has several hundred published works to his credit.

He also served as arranger for the Disney educational project “Magic Music Days,” where young performing musicians are introduced to the film scoring/recording process. He accepted numerous school band and orchestra commissions, and enjoyed writing for the Detroit Symphony Pops, the Canadian Brass, and the Detroit Chamber Winds. In 2004, John and three fellow orchestrators transcribed approximately 90 minutes of orchestral music by film composer John Williams for a Kennedy Center concert featuring the United States Marine Band, with Mr. Williams conducting.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Arranged by John Rutter


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is a Christian hymn for Advent. The Latin text is first documented in Germany in 1710 and the tune most familiar in the English-speaking world has its origins in 15th Century France. It is in the style of plainchant, most recognizable as like the early monastic chants of monks in the Middle Ages.

This traditional Christmas hymn has been arranged by John Rutter, an English composer and conductor well known around the world for his many choral arrangements. He founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, which he conducts and with which he has made many recordings of sacred choral repertoire (including his own works).

This arrangement has been a pleasure to rehearse and perform. His arrangements are beautiful and showcase the lyrics.

In 2011 he was invited to compose an anthem for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, “This is The Day”.


Celtic Christmas Overture

Arranged by Daniel Semsen

Daniel Semsen has brilliantly married traditional Christmas carols with a vibrant contemporary sound.

The carols included in this piece include, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, The Wexford Carol and How Suddenly a Baby Cries.

Combining the passion of Celtic musical traditions and the joyous celebration of Christ’s birth, Season of Joy offers a spectacular collection of new and beloved seasonal songs that will perfectly complement any Christmas program. Acclaimed arranger/orchestrator Daniel Semsen has brilliantly married traditional Celtic instrumentation with a vibrant contemporary sound. Featuring four new songs by Keith and Kristyn Getty, this one-of-a-kind musical combines such Irish classics as The Wexford Carol with exciting new Celtic-inspired arrangements of Chris Tomlin’s Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) and Travis Cottrell’s Jesus Saves. A standout offering is the stunning overture, which features fiddles, penny whistles and bagpipes. No less than one dozen familiar carols artfully weave their way through the work, inviting your audience to fully join the celebration.

Daniel Semsen

Even when he was 12 years old, Daniel Semsen knew that he was destined to write music for film.  He got his start taking piano lessons as a young boy and playing alto sax in a small town in Northern California.  In 2001, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Music Theory and Composition.  After beginning his Master’s Degree in Commercial Music from Cal State L.A, Daniel became active working as a freelance composer and orchestrator for film and television. Daniel has worked on several films, including the SyFy movie “Fire and Ice”, the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, “The Dictator”, the Disney DVD “101 Dalmatians (2-Disc Platinum Edition)”, and most recently the Mandalay Pictures/Sony Pictures film, “When the Game Stands Tall.”  Additionally, he was a regular composer for the Emmy Award-winning TV series on PBS, “Travelscope” for several seasons.  In 2013, Daniel orchestrated and conducted several pieces for the London Symphony Orchestra, and spent a week in London recording in the world-famous Studio A at Abbey Road.

In 2010, Daniel’s orchestrations were heard across the world during the Opening Ceremonies of the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, creating the orchestrations for music featuring artists Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, and Nikki Yanofsky.

When he is not composing and orchestrating for film and TV in Hollywood, Daniel is busy writing for the Choral Print Industry in Nashville, Tennessee.  He is a Dove Award-winning choral arranger and orchestrator, working frequently with Travis Cottrell as well as publishing companies Lifway Music, Brentwood-Benson, Word Music, and Lillenas Music.  Daniel has the incredible privilege to arrange and orchestrate music for his incredibly talented wife, Dove Award-nominated children’s music writer, Christy Semsen.  They have collaborated on over half a dozen children’s musicals that have been performed around the world.

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Arr. Mack Wilberg


“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the joyful tune expected today. Moreover, Wesley’s original opening couplet is “Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”

The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, notably by Wesley’s co-worker George Whitefield who changed the opening couplet to the familiar one, and by Felix Mendelssohn. A hundred years after the publication of Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1840, Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg‘s invention of the printing press, and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, that became the carol known today.

In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn‘s secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley. Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today“, and in some hymnals that tune is included for “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with the more popular Mendelssohn-Cummings tune.


Mack Wilberg (born in 1955 in Orangeville, Utah) is a composerarrangerconductor, choral clinician and the current music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Wilberg was raised in Castle Dale, Utah, and served an LDS mission in South Korea where he was part of New Horizons, a vocal group made up of LDS missionaries.

Wilberg attended Brigham Young University (BYU) after finishing his missionary service, and earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1979. He concentrated on piano and composition. He then earned a master’s degree and a PhD in music from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.

He is a former professor of music at BYU, where he directed the Men’s Chorus and Concert Choir. At BYU he was a member of the American Piano Quartet which included Paul Pollei, himself, and different other pianist at different times (Massimiliano Frani, Del Parkinson, Ronald Staheli, and Douglas Humphreys). This group toured throughout the world and commissioned many original works. Wilberg created many of their arrangements himself. His compositions and arrangements are performed and recorded by choral organizations throughout the world. In addition to the many compositions he has written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, his works have been performed by such artists as Renée FlemingFrederica von StadeBryn Terfel, the King’s SingersAudra McDonaldDavid ArchuletaNatalie ColeBrian Stokes Mitchell and narrators Walter Cronkite and Claire Bloom.

He was the associate director of the choir and music director of the Temple Square Chorale for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from May 1999 until his appointment as director on March 28, 2008.


Silent Night

Text: Joseph Mohr

Music: Franz Gruber

Arr. Barlow Bradford


One of the best loved Christmas Hymns in the world. Written when the organ in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria had been eaten by rats and there was a need for something special for the Christmas Eve service. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics and Franz Gruber, the schoolmaster and organist composed the melody to be accompanied by a guitar.

The original manuscript has been lost. However a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr’s handwriting and dated by researchers at about 1820. It shows that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Mohr’s handwriting.

The history and the story of this song is long and storied and has been repeated endlessly since then. It was translated into the English version we know today in 1859. It has also been translated into about 140 languages.

Barlow Bradford is an associate professor of choral studies at the University of Utah. Over the course of his extraordinary musical career, Dr. Barlow Bradford has distinguished himself as a conductor, composer, arranger, pianist, organist, and teacher. As an orchestral and choral conductor, he co-founded the Utah Chamber Artists in 1991 and has led that organization to international acclaim.

Dr. Bradford began winning competitions in organ and piano performance in his teens and went on to become a very accomplished musician, performer, composer, arranger and teacher.

This arrangement for choir and orchestra is beautiful and peaceful and allows the audience to join us on the last verse.