Featuring six songs by Rosephanye Powell

Christmas at America’s First Cathedral features six original songs for chorus by renown choral composer Rosephanye Powell, including an a cappella spiritual “Have You Seen the Baby Jesus” performed by exhilarating soprano Janice Chandler Eteme. All songs are performed by the  Baltimore Choral Arts Chorus & Orchestra.  Tom Hall, conductor; Jim Kessler, orchestrator.  Free bonus DVD included!

In addition to familiar seasonal music by Mendelssohn, Handel, Rutter, and others, Christmas at America’s First Cathedral features music from South Africa, Canada, and the United States, including the premiere recordings of seven new works by two of America’s most important African American composers, Dr. Rosephanye Powell and Dr. James Lee III. Dr. Lee’s motet, “A Clean Heart” is from a collection of four motets composed in 2009. The six selections by Dr. Powell comprise a suite called, Christmas Give, commissioned by Baltimore Choral Arts and given its world premiere December 1, 2009 at the Baltimore Basilica.

The bonus DVD includes selections from that concert, including Dr. Powell reading two poems and interviews with Tom Hall about the program and its historic venue.  Recorded in the resonant acoustics of America’s first Cathedral, the Baltimore Basilica.

1. Rise Up! Arise! — Felix Mendelssohn (3:33)
2. Gabriel’s Message — Eleanor Daley (1:51)
3. Come Colours Rise — Grant McLachlan (4:46)
4. I Saw Three Ships — arr. Robert Shaw & Alice Parker (1:45)
5. Christmas Memories* — Rosephanye Powell (3:49) NEWLY RELEASED

Hal Leonard:  HL 00114533  Rosephanye Powell’s charming work recorded with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society will make a wonderful feature for concert choirs from high school through community and collegiate levels. Whether you perform it with piano only or collaborate with an orchestra, this romantic ballad will be a choir and audience favorite! “Gentle breeze, falling snow, tender lips under the mistletoe. Glowing fire, arms entwined, words of love, yours and mine…”
6. Precious Gift His Wondrous Birth — Dave Brubeck (1:56)

7. Ring the Bells* — Rosephanye Powell (2:40)  SATB with piano and optional percussion Hal Leonard HL 08754674

Hal Leonard: Happiness abounds in this joyful original work recorded by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. It may be performed with piano or with the colorful and contemporary orchestration! Available separately: SATB. Score and parts (fl 1-2/picc, ob 1-2, cl 1-2, bn 1-2, hn 1-2, tpt 1-3, perc 1-2, vn 1-2, va, vc, db) available as a Printed Edition and as a digital download. Duration: ca. 2:40.
8. A Clean Heart* — James Lee III (5:06)
9. Christus Natus Est*— Rosephanye Powell (5:10) release forthcoming!
10. Hallelujah, Amen — G. F. Handel (2:49)
11. Have You Seen the Baby Jesus?* — Rosephanye Powell (2:46) SATB a cappella with solo or small group Gentry Publications JG2415

Fred Bock Music:  Rosephanye Powell has created a new spiritual for Christmas that sounds like we have been singing it for years. The basic melody is carried by a small group or solo voice and the choral parts serve as the accompaniment and sometimes as a response to the melody. The pace is quick and energetic and, as always, Rosephanye’s rhythms are a joy to sing.

12. The Flight into Egypt — Hector Berlioz (5:46)
13. Jesus Child — John Rutter (3:30)
14. Holy Night* — Rosephanye Powell (2:38) Release forthcoming!
15. Ogo ni fun Oluwa*— Rosephanye Powell (2:47) Hal Leonard 08703401

Hal Leonard: Here is an exuberant celebration of the birth of Christ through layered African polyrhythms and call-and-response vocal phrases. The singers encourage the audience to rejoice, shout and clap with them, making this selection a wonderful processional or concert opener. Percussion, Yoruba translation and pronunciation are included. Duration: ca. 2:45.
16. Mary’s Lullaby — Rutter (3:13)
17. Hallelujah Chorus — Handel (4:05)

*World Premiere Recording

Available for purchase at:
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Americas-First-Cathedral/dp/B0041ZMOKE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1311281845&sr=8-2
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Americas-First-Cathedral/dp/B003X859HU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311281845&sr=8-1

Composer Notes:

The title “Christmas Give” for this suite of six songs comes from a tradition in the African-American southern culture. In my family, the first person to greet another on Christmas day with the saying “Christmas Give” was expected to receive a gift from the person who received the greeting. Each Christmas morn (If my father didn’t rise early enough to beat him to the punch– my uncle would come to our home on and shout “Christmas give!”. The house would fill with laughter as we kids rejoiced that my uncle had gotten the best of our father. Of course, it was never really about the gift because my uncle and father rarely got anything more than hugs, a piece of fruit, slice of cake or piece of candy. It was about family, love and the joy of the season. Also, I remember that as a child, when my family spent Christmas with my grandparents in Little River, Alabama, my grandmother would go through the house awaking the children with the greeting to our delight. Since this performance may be the first of the season for many, I thought that “Christmas Give” would be a fitting title as we come together in the spirit of the holiday season. As the Baltimore Choral Arts Society shouts to us a musical “Christmas Give” with the wondrous musical sounds of the season, may we endeavor to give the gift of love to everyone we encounter this season and all year long!

Each song in the suite was composed with precious memories of my childhood in mind. Christus Natus Est is a setting of a poem of the same name by African-American poet Countee Cullen (1903-1946), a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. As I read Cullen’s poetry, I found myself transported back in time, imagining the hope of Christ’s birth in the lives of my forefathers and mothers as they struggled for equality, justice and freedom during the time of slavery through the Civil Rights Movement. A spiritual that was very familiar to and impactful for me as a child was Go Down Moses. Because its message is so well aligned with Cullen’s poetic rumination, and because it points back to the biblical place and time about which Cullen speaks, it seemed fitting as a musical underlay. Christus Natus Est expresses both the angst of hope deferred and expectation of hope for that which is to come—both of which are exemplified in the birth and return of Christ. Cullen powerfully addresses and questions societal woes with such poignant words as “For bird and beast He did not come, but for the least of mortal scum. Who lies in ditch? Who begs his bread? Who has no stitch for back or head? Who wakes to weep, lies down to mourn? Who in his sleep withdraws from scorn? Ye outraged dust, on field and plain, to feed the lust of madmen slain”. His answer for all of these is the latin text “Christus Natus Est” (that is; for these Christ is born). I believe that as the poet agonizes over the injustices in the world, he hopes in the return of Christ, heard in the phrase “Christ must and will come to his own”. Cullen resolves that life’s ills will remain until Christ returns to his own—not as the innocent child in the manger but as a warrior for freedom and justice.

Ogo ni fun Oluwa is an original work that sets African texts provided by my dear friend Henry Fadamiro, a native of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, West Africa. Ogo ni fun Oluwa! is translated “Glory to God in the highest”. This song grew out of the African tales that were told to me and my siblings by our grandfather who was a master story teller. It is an exultation to shout, dance, rejoice and clap in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ!

Have You Seen the Baby Jesus? is an original work composed in the style of the African-American Christmas spirituals that I heard and sang as a child, such as Children, Go Where I Send thee, and What You Gone Call that Pretty Little Baby. Just as in Children, Go Where I Send thee, this joyful song is energized by musical phrases that get longer through repeated texts that describe the baby Jesus and his birth. Near the end of the song, it takes on a gospel flavor as the choir jubilantly proclaims “He is the King, Emmanuel!”

Holy Night was composed with two songs in mind that were staples in the Christmas repertoire of my childhood church in rural Alabama– Silent Night, Holy Night and O Holy Night. As we acted out the Christmas story and sang these songs, I imagined what that night looked , felt and sounded like. In Holy Night, I sought to recreate musically the mystical and ethereal presence of that most unusual night…the moon and stars, the stillness, the wraithlike expectation…the peace. My utmost desire in composing this song was to paint a musical image of the night.

Christmas Memories , composed in the style of a ballad, is reminiscent of the pop and jazz ballads that I heard on radio and in Christmas movie musicals. It is a love song of remembrance when special moments with one’s beloved stir deeply the passions of the heart–from falling snow to mistletoe—every moment is precious and seems timeless.

Ring the Bells! is my take on the festive atmosphere of the Christmas season heard in the joyful music and ringing of bells at stores during Christmastime. As a child, I always received great pleasure singing the popular song Silver Bells each year in my school chorus. And, it seemed that this song was heard everywhere—in the streets, the stores, the restaurants—generally anywhere people gathered. For me, the bells resound the message that love, joy, hope and peace should be rung not only at Christmas but throughout the year! From my heart to yours “Christmas Give”!


Glory Hallelujah to duh Newbo’n King! Gentry Publications – JG2325

SATB, a cappella, Christmas spiritual. “Rosephanye Powell has become one of the most innovative and popular choral writers in America. She salutes her African-American heritage in the arrangement of this popular Christmas Spiritual. Abounding with her classic energy this setting is sure to be a favorite.”–Fred Bock Music


Glory Hallelujah to duh Newbo’n King! Gentry Publications – JG2354

TTBB, a cappella, Christmas spiritual. This arrangement has been so popular that an arrangement for men’s voice has been added.
Arranged for men’s voices by William C. Powell.


 

Have You Seen the Baby Jesus is an original work composed in the style of the African-American Christmas spirituals that I heard and sang as a child, such as Children, Go Where I Send thee, and What You Gone Call that Pretty Little Baby.  Just as in Children, Go Where I Send thee, this joyful  song is energized by musical phrases that get longer through repeated texts that describe the baby Jesus and his birth. Near the end of the song, it takes on a gospel flavor as the choir jubilantly proclaims “He is the King, Emmanuel!”

Holy Night was composed with two songs in mind that were staples in the Christmas repertoire of my childhood church in rural Alabama– Silent Night, Holy Night and O Holy Night.  As we acted out the Christmas story and sang these songs, I imagined what that night looked , felt and sounded like.  In Holy Night, I sought to recreate musically the mystical and ethereal presence of that most unusual night…the moon and stars, the stillness, the wraithlike expectation…the peace.  My utmost desire in composing this song was to paint a musical image of the night.  Christmas Memories , composed in the style of a ballad, is reminiscent of the pop and jazz ballads that I heard on radio and in Christmas movie musicals.   It is a love song of remembrance when special moments with one’s beloved stir deeply the passions of the heart–from falling snow to mistletoe—every moment is precious and seems timeless.  Ring the Bells is my take on the festive atmosphere of the Christmas season heard in the joyful music and ringing of bells at stores during Christmastime.  As a child, I always received great pleasure singing the popular song Silver Bells each year in my school chorus.  And, it seemed that this song was heard everywhere—in the streets, the stores, the restaurants—generally anywhere people gathered.  For me, the bells resound the message that love, joy, hope and peace should be rung not only at Christmas but throughout the year! From my heart to yours “Christmas Give”!