music for christmas

Radiant Dawn

by Benjamin Perry

The Boston Cecilia’s next concert, Radiant Dawn, will feature the theme of light. As we near the solstice, we will perform music about light in winter, the season of darkness. In December, the sun sets early, our stores of Vitamin D run low, and the cold weather pushes us indoors. We overcome the darkness by focusing on the qualities of light in the human sense: the warm-heartedness, the kindness, and the generosity. The darkest and coldest time of the year is a time to bring warmth with celebration - Christmas, Hanukkah, Mawlid el-Nabi, and Rohatsu (Bodhi Day). It is in this spirit of joy, hope, and reflection that we present the music of Radiant Dawn.

One of the pieces on the program will be Morton Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. Few composers have captured the essence of radiance so fully as Lauridsen. He is the most frequently performed American composer of choral music, and light is one of his central themes, particularly in Lux Aeterna. But what is it about his music that makes us experience this aural vision of light so readily? To quote his website: “His music has an overall lyricism and is tightly constructed around melodic and harmonic motives.” Lauridsen’s choral music has an overall lushness and cinematic exquisiteness to it. It contains dense and bright harmonies and clever voicings that bring the “light” out of the sound. All of these elements combine to create music that simply wants to be sung with enthusiasm and heart.

Cecilia will also perform Serenity, Ola Gjeilo’s setting of the beloved Christmas text “O Magnum Mysterium.” Gjeilo’s piece with its overlapping layers of sonorous chords and its beautifully simple melodies paints an image of light; it creates a sound-world that resembles light passing through the prism of colorful stained-glass windows. This aural image is paired with the text, with its emphasis on mystery and blessedness, and is emphatically communicated through Gjeilo’s compositional techniques.

The holiday concert will also feature Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, as well as a cappella pieces of Eric Whitacre, James Macmillan, and Gabriel Guillaume. Organist Kevin Neel, cellist Shay Rudolph, and baritone John Bitsas will join the Cecilia chorus to celebrate light in this holiday season with Radiant Dawn.

Benjamin Perry is the Assistant Conductor of The Boston Cecilia