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Celebrating Christmas in March with James Adler’s “Winter Triptych”
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   

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It’s almost spring, but the snow-and-icy first weeks of March have done their share of suggesting the height of winter, so James Adler’s “A Winter Triptych,” a setting of three favorite Yuletide carols, now available on CD or as a download from www.albanyrecords.com and www.amazon.com, is eminently timely.
Under Henco Espag’s baton, an exuberant French horn (Thea Humphries) and harp (Kathryn Sloat) figure introduces the “Triptych” and the choristers (Judson Memorial Church Choir) echo it quietly in their opening “Gloria—Sing Noel!” The instrumental figure is repeated, and is then followed by the vocal line, again quietly, then forcefully.
The chorus’ “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” in a bit of a variant on the traditional melody, is bouncy, but sung with restraint, and segues directly in the “Wassail Song,” ambling along, with Jessica Pruett-Barnett assisting, above the choristers, in a pure soprano. The carolers then stop to make their resolute, joyous pronouncement, beginning, “Love and joy come to you” and ending with a wish for “A Happy New Year!”
A peaceful “Interlude: Pastoral” provides a time for reflection, before the caroling resumes.
In the recapitulation of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” baritone Eric Oliver encompasses the music’s diverse directions, not only very slow and dramatic, but also mezzo-piano, and then crescendos to mezzo-forte, before returning to mezzo-piano, when the chorus joins him.
The final panel in the “Triptych,” a 13th century French Noël, begins as a choral lullaby in the manger, then develops into a celebration by the “Angels from on high.” The chorus is in full cry, as it bids us farewell, with a final “Sing Noel!”
Adler dedicated “A Winter Triptych,” “with much love,” to his Aunt Reva, in whose home he wrote the work, for Chicago’s Windy City Gay Chorus, in 1984.


 

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