Programme Notes

Great Joy II! Joy Around the World

by  Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert 

A Multitude of Angels

Creative Commons license.

The lyric is taken from the book of Luke, Chapter 2 verses 9-14, the American Standard Version:

And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were terribly afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this is

the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on Earth peace among men.’

This original work by Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert celebrates the wonder and majesty of the birth of Jesus as proclaimed by the angel and heavenly hosts. The lyric “And on Earth peace among men” has been changed to “And on earth peace to all” to be more inclusive, thereby offering all the opportunity to share in the greatest gift during the holiday season.

Rejoice! How Great Our Joy

Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht, one of the source carols for Rejoice! How Great Our Joy

“Rejoice! How Great Our Joy” is a combination of two traditional German carols: “While by the Sheep” (Als ich bei Minen Schafen Wacht), and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” (In Dulci Jubilo). The former was written by German poet and Jesuit priest Friedrich Spee in 1625, and the latter by Heinrich Seuse in 1328. Spee’s carol is renowned for the musical echo in its chorus, while Seuse’s text credits hearing angels as divine inspiration in his musical tribute to Christ’s birth. Joseph Joubert and Michael McElroy’s arrangement combines both songs in an uplifting gospel celebration. Omitted is the male-centred lyric “Good Christian men,” replaced with “Good people,” to embrace and encompass humanity.

In Dulci Jubilo, from a songbook published in 1533.

O Come Divine Messiah

Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, image provided by SomeRandomTenor

“O Come Divine Messiah” (Venez Divin Messie) was composed by Catholic clergyman Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin. A well-known librettist who wrote operas with the French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, Pellegrin set his lyric to a popular 16th-century French tune. It remains one of the most sung carols in French Catholic churches today. “Venez Divin Messie” harkens back to the early Israelites’ fervent plea for the one who would deliver them from bondage. It is through the emotion of a people’s prayer and supplication that Joseph Joubert and Michael McElroy have found musical inspiration. By changing the melodic structure of this carol from major to minor, their new interpretation embraces a deep yearning for the Divine One to come.

We Three Kings

“We Three Kings,” also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi,” was written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins. The carol tells the story of the Biblical Magi who paid homage to Jesus at his Nativity bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This arrangement takes it “old school” on this traditional American Christmas Carol featuring a “not so traditional” trio of Kings.

Masaccio: Adoration of the Magi. A most traditional depiction.

From Starry Skies Descending

Tu Scendi Dalle Stele” or “You Come Down from the Stars” is considered the oldest Christmas carol in Italy. It was written in the early 1700s by Saint Alfonso Liguori, a bishop from Napoli. Incredibly popular, children learn this carol in grade school, and its melody is known by most Italians today. This new version by Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert is a tribute to the Richard Smallwood style of Gospel music and infuses a rhythmic soulful flavour to this traditional Italian Christmas carol.

No Room in the Inn

“No Room in the Inn” tells the story of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Galilee to a stable in Bethlehem. Composed by Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert, “No Room in the Inn” combines the melodies and rhythmic sounds of traditional African music to provide a unique sonic landscape for this sweeping tale of hardship and ultimate joy.

Noel, Noel

This original work, composed by Joseph Joubert and Michael McElroy, tells the story of a child’s birth in a lowly manger. The lyrics and music tenderly reflect upon Joseph and Mary’s rejection at the inn and their humble sacrifice which produced the greatest gift of all. This soulful creation, full of lush harmonies, lives in the gospel style, but can be sung and embraced by any choir. Commissioned by Choeur Gospel Célébration in 2011, this soon-to-be holiday favourite can be heard on their holiday album Noel Divine, or the recently released Great Joy II: Around the World (BIV).

He Is Born

“He Is Born” or “Il est né, le divin Enfant” is a traditional French Christmas carol from the region of Provence. It was published for the first time in 1862 by R. Grosjean, organist of the Cathedral of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. The lyric exuberantly expresses the fulfilment of a four-thousand-year-old prophecy predicting the birth of the infant holy. Originally published in a collection of ancient carols, this new adaptation by Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert, reimagines the popular carol in a contemporary gospel style. Get your holiday groove going with this rhythmic take on a favourite French Carol.

Wendat (“Huron”) Carol

“The Huron Carol” or “Jesus Ahatonhia,” is Canada’s oldest Christmas song. It was written by Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary at Sainte-Marie, around 1642, while he lived among the Wendat. Brébeuf based the carol’s melody on a traditional French folk song, and wrote his lyrics in the Wendat language. The carol was preserved by the Wendat following the attack of the Haudenosaunee , where Saint Jean de Brébeuf was burned at the stake. This new arrangement by Joseph Joubert and Michael McElroy is inspired by North America’s oldest carol and the wintry land in which it was written, evoking visions of a night sky filled with stars bearing witness to the birth of baby Jesus.

Bring A Torch

“Bring a Torch” (“Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle”), originally created as dance music for French nobility, was first published in 1553 in the Provence region of France. It was later set to lyrics that asked all visiting the stable to speak quietly, so the new-born can sleep and enjoy his dreams. To this day, on Christmas Eve, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass while singing the carol. With additional music and lyrics by Jason Michael Webb, Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert, this version embraces the awe, humility and majesty experienced by those who witnessed the birth of the infant child.

Wexford Carol

One of the oldest surviving Christmas Carols in the European tradition is “Wexford Carol,” or “Carul Loch Garman.” While the melody originated in County Wexford in Ireland, and dates back to the 12th century, it’s believed that the lyrics were added as late as the 16th century, though the authors of both music and text remain unknown. Whether included in the Kilmore Carols of the 1600s or the carol collections of Dr. William Henry Grattan Flood of the 1920s, “Wexford Carol” remains one of the most popular traditional Irish Christmas carols of all time. For many years, tradition dictated that only men should sing its words, but in this “Wexford Carol” arranged by Joseph Joubert and Michael McElroy, the warm tones of a female soloist lead the choir on a journey of reflection, consideration and appreciation of the nativity.

Rise Up

“Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow” is a popular American Negro spiritual/Christmas Carol that was first published in 1867 in a publication entitled Slave Songs of the United States. It was originally composed in the call-and-response style associated with plantation songs. Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert have created a new gospel arrangement that’s steeped in the traditions of contemporary church choir music. Though the lyrics are based on the nativity story found in the Gospel of Luke, this carol was also used – as many songs were during the dark days of slavery – to convey coded messages of hope and escape to freedom.

Sussex Carol

The “Sussex Carol,” or “On Christmas Night, All Christians Sing,” is a popular Christmas carol in Britain. First published by Irish bishop Luke Wadding in 1684, it was featured as part of a larger work called Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs. But the carol as we know today was put on paper by Ralph Vaughan Williams after hearing it sung by Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate, near Horsham, Sussex (which inspired the carol’s name). This arrangement by Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert is rich with sophisticated harmonies yet maintains the heart and simplicity of the original melody and lyric so often heard during the Christmas season.

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