Anna Steppler, Annette Richards, and Michael Plagerman
Play Music for Advent and Christmas

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621): In dulci jubilo (from Musae Sioniae V, 1607)

Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933): Resonet in laudibus (from Cathedral Windows, Op. 106)

Nicolas Lèbegue (1631-1702): Or nous dites Marie: Noël pour la voix humaine and Marie Vierge

Johannes Brahms (1833-97): Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (from Chorale Preludes, Op. 122)

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621): puer nobis nascitur, SwWV 315

Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911): Noël pour le temps de l’Avent

Lèbegue: Puer nobis nascitur and Les cloches

Guilmant: Elévation sur le Noël ‘or nous dites Marie’

Hugh Blair (1864-1932): Fantasy on Old Christmas Carols

Played on the Vicedomini organ and Aeolian-Skinner in Sage Chapel, the GOArt/Yokota organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel, the Juget-Sinclair organ of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Collegetown, and the Russell organ of First Presbyterian Church, Ithaca.

A good Christmas Tree is joyously chaotic. Baubles of many colors, miniature angels singing carols, elves making toys, bunnies snowshoeing through the winter, and stars glistening in candlelight. Fragments of memories from different times, places, and people, all seen through the sparkling, sometimes bittersweet, lens of the holiday. It is this kaleidoscopic jumble that we present here, in our final organist’s offering of seasonal joy and goodwill. You will see and hear organs from across Ithaca, some of which have remained locked in wintry silence for many months but speak again here with the promise of a new year and more music to come. You will catch the strains of familiar carols and noels in music from very different times and places. And we hope there will be something of the Christmas spirit that speaks to all our listeners, from the quiet watch of Advent to the simple joy of Christmas. If our celebration must perforce be a little muted this year, we look forward to sharing this music with you all again in person soon.

The Vicedomini organ in Sage Chapel blows away the dust of a silent few months swaddled in protective plastic in a COVID-testing site, chiming in with Michael Praetorius’s sweet bicinium on In dulci jubilo, and Jan Pieterzsoon Sweelinck’s rousing set of variations on puer nobis nascitur, whose sparkling figuration traverses the entire keyboard. Emerging too from its hibernation, the Aeolian-Skinner presents Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s delicately impressionistic rendering of the medieval Christmas hymn resonet in laudibus, complete with shimmering Christmas star (a quiet chord held throughout by weights—the organist’s keys!—on the keyboard). A short walk away on a snowy campus, the Anabel Taylor baroque organ fills in a string of classical French Noëls by Nicolas Lebègue, from the delicate Or nous dittes Marie to the dancing evocation of Christmas bells in Les Cloches, and a reprise of puer nobis nascitur, here dressed in its best French ornaments.

Taking us off campus, the Juget-Sinclair organ of St Luke’s in Collegetown revels in the warm glow of Johannes Brahms’s Es ist ein Ros entsprungen. Two romantic French Noëls by Alexandre Guilmant from the end of the 19th century reflect the longevity of this French tradition of Christmas music: a Noël pour le temps de l’Avent, which depicts Mary praying in her oratory, and a second setting of Or nous dittes Marie, separated from our first by over 200 years. Downtown, meanwhile, the Russell organ at First Presbyterian presents the second movement of Marcel Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion, Nativité, with its strains of the familiar carol Adeste fideles accompanying a narrative of the quietly miraculous birth of Christ. A Fantasy on Old Christmas Carols, a Christmas voluntary by Hugh Blair, organist of Worcester Cathedral 1895-97, draws our concert to a close, with its playful rendition of old English favorites, God rest ye merry gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, and A Virgin unspotted.

With especial thanks to St Luke’s and First Presbyterian for allowing us access to their beautiful instruments at this time!

—Anna Steppler