Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robert Shaw Chorale

It is not Christmas morning if I do not hear a certain hymn. "Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light" from "The Many Moods of Christmas" by the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Break forth O beauteous heavenly light
and usher in the morning;
Ye shepherds shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel's warning.
This child now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be.
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

I thought the piece was written by J.S.Bach, but on closer inspection I see that he wrote the harmonies - which are gorgeous. Johann Schop wrote the melody. The song just sounds like Christmas to me, but beyond that I am reminded of singing with the great Robert Shaw in 1990. Robert Shaw is considered to be the most influential choral conductor in American history. I had heard about him all my life from my mother who sang with the Mendelssohn Chorus in Pittsburgh under Shaw's direction. Growing up I heard the music of his chorale and stories about the amazing and charismatic man he was.
In 1990 I was singing in the summer version of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus - The Blosson Festival Chorus. I actually lost count of how many years I sang with them in the summers. (14-15 I think!) It was a great thrill to sit behind the Cleveland Orchestra, long thought to be one of the greatest in the world, and to sing with many guest conductors. Not only did I meet Mr. Shaw (and get his autograph) that summer we did my favorite choral work with him - Brahm's German Requiem. It was an experience I will never forget. My mother was thrilled that I had the experience as well, of course.
The Many Moods of Christmas is the quintessential Christmas album. It was originally recorded in 1963, but you can still buy it today. Click on both of his names above to learn more.

4 comments:

NAVAL LANGA said...

I have come here from Ms. Kathie's blogs. I have read some of your posts and wold like to revisit.

If you like short stories and paintings, then a short visit to my blogs would be a refreshing event.

Naval Langa
http://cleanfiction.blogspot.com/

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I have always admired the Robert Shaw Chorale....How WONDERFUL that you got to sing with them and him, and The Cleveland Orchestra, too!
What special memories to have, Diane....

A Very Very Merry Christmas to you, my dear, and a Glorious 2009!

SandyCarlson said...

I will listen for this music on your recommendation! What a great review.

Stratoz said...

I have heard that CD. it is beautiful. Not sure why it did not end up in my I-tunes. oh well. I went to Last.fm and I am now listening to the chorale sing We Three Kings.