7:30 p.m. — Saturday, December 9, 2023
Vernon Cook Theater at Clinton High School
The Holidays are a time for family, friends and music. On this special evening we gather many of our friends to perform for you, and we hope you will bring your family and friends to celebrate with us. Expect selections from the great music we associate with the season, including collaborations with other arts groups and a carol sing-along.
It’s a special time of year!
There’s Christmas in the Air – arr. Carl Strommen
The classics of the holidays come to life in this orchestral version of some of the most familiar
and enduring popular songs of the season. Opening with I’ll Be Home for Christmas, continuing
with the poignant Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas, then livening with Santa Claus is
Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman.
Christmas Song – Mel Torme/Robert Wells
One of the most famous and favorite Christmas songs of all time, this classic was a signature
song for Nat King Cole. The “Velvet Fog”, Mel Torme composed the lush orchestration in 1945
and co-wrote the lyrics with Bob Wells. Torme, an American musician, singer, composer,
arranger, drummer, actor and author, also won 2 Grammys for his work. According to Torme,
the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool”,
the most-performed song was written in 45 minutes. Lyricist Bob Wells said he didn’ think he
was writing a song lyric; he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off.
Song of the Bells – Leroy Anderson
Carol of the Bells has its roots in old Ukrainian folk songs,, a way of blessing one’s neighbors or
worshiping the ancient gods before the advent of Christianity. Mykolaiv Leontovych was
supposed to become a priest, but was put in charge of the choir in his seminary, and eventually
became a music teacher, composer and arranger of his country’s ancient songs. One of these
was a simple, four-note melody called Shchedryk. The driving, dancing energy of the
arrangement made its way to the United States.
Peter J. Wilhousky, a popular American composer of the time, wrote English lyrics for it in 1936.
Renamed as Carol of the Bells, it quickly became associated with Christmas in widespread
performances all through the 1940s. Last year Carnegie Hall hosted a holiday celebration to
benefit Ukraine as choral groups from North American and Europe honored the 100th
anniversary of the beloved song.
Anderson’s arrangement swirls like a Viennese waltz, the bells represented on chimes and the
Festive Sounds of Hanukah – arr. Bill Holcombe
This lively medley of favorite selections includes joyous arrangements of Rock of
Ages, Who Can Retell? Hanukah, Hanukah, My Dreidel, S’vivon, and Where Are You
Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson
Famously beloved as the “Voice of the Boston Pops”, Leroy Anderson is a favorite composer of
light concert music. Displaying unusual early musical talent, Anderson wrote his first
composition by age 12, which led to studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and
Harvard. Equally adept at languages, he made the practical decision to become a language
teacher, composing and conducting on the side, especially for the Boston Pops.
Many of his clever, inventive compositions have been used as themes for radio and television
shows. Deemed an American original, he even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He has been widely lauded as the “Norman Rockwell of American music” for his ability to
capture the familiar and turn it into art.
Sleigh Ride remains the most popular of Christmas music. With its cheerful melody and the
sounds of sleigh bells, horse whinnies and a whip, it has been recorded over 8000 times.
Orchestra members insist correctly that they can play it without a conductor, and every fledgling
trumpet player must master the horse whinny.
Christmas at the Movies – arr. Bob Kronstadt
Music from five classic holiday films are included in this medley, recalling some of the most
memorable songs and themes from Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on
34th Street, The Polar Express and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Overture to “Messiah” – George Frideric Handel
The German-born composer of the late Baroque period is known for his operas, instrumental
compositions and his most famous oratorio, Messiah, written in 1741 and now a Yuletide staple.
More than anyone else,, Handel democratized music, his best-known works achieving a social
as well as musical significance. Born in Germany in 1685, he became a great master of choral
music as well as one of the great instrumental composers of his age, his music becoming an
indispensable part of England’s national culture. A lifelong lover of theatre, his oratorios were
often performed on stage, not in a church.
Handel first conceived of the Messiah as an Easter offering, first performed during Lent. The
Victorians moved it to Christmas in an effort to revive interest in what had become a neglected
holiday, and by the late 19th century, the Messiah had become regularly performed in
December, especially in the United States.
Handel had been going through some hard times just before he composed his landmark
oratorio. Many of his musical works were not doing well, he was losing weight and suffering
from depression. When a friend sent him some texts from the Bible, he was inspired and
embarked on a fast and furious burst of creativity, writing the three-hour work in just 18 days.
His servants said he hardly came down from his study except to get food which he ate while
The Messiah’s first third deals with the birth of Jesus. The second part covers the death of
Jesus, and the third his resurrection. Audience members usually stand when the famous
“Hallelujah” chorus begins. Supposedly, King George II was so moved during the London
premiere of the Messiah that he rose to his feet, and then everyone else in the theater followed
as a matter of royal protocol.
Handel had a striking ability to depict human character musically in a single scene or aria, a gift
used with great dramatic power in his oratorios. Beethoven himself, citing the Messiah, called
Handel “the greatest composer who ever lived.” And Mozart declared, “Handel knows better
than any of us what will make an effect. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”
A Most Wonderful Christmas -arr. Robert Sheldon
A fun medley of some of the most popular Christmas selections of all time. Includes Winter
Wonderland, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Have Yourself a
Merry Little Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Midwinter Rose – Dana Calhoun
Double bass player Dana Calhoun cut his symphonic teeth in the 1980s with Clinton Symphony.
Now an organist with Faith Lutheran Church in Moline for almost 20 years, Dana enjoys trying
out his compositions on his “unsuspecting” congregation, including works for piano, organ,
various string instruments as well as school and church choirs. Early in his bass playing career,
he remembers discovering the “ubiquitous, (in)famous Pachelbel Canon in D which contains a
grand total of 8 notes for the lower strings.” With the piece firmly stuck in his brain, he
composed a piano solo combining Pachelbel and the Holst tune “In the Bleak Midwinter”, which
he later expanded into an orchestral work while adding the German Carol “Lo, How a Rose is
Growing”, thus resulting in Midwinter Rose.
O Holy Night – Chip Davis
Based on a French poem by Placide Coppeau written in 1843, O Holy Night was later set to
music by composer Adolph Adam. Fast forward to 1974, a visionary musician, Chip Davis
founded Mannheim Steamroller creating the best-selling Christmas music in history with over 35
albums. His landmark album, Fresh Aire melded elements of classical, rock and pop into
something altogether unique, dubbed “New Age”.The Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Tour is
the longest running consecutive tour in the music industry.
Christmas Festival – Leroy Anderson
For A Christmas Festival, Anderson chose 8 popular Christmas carols and Jingle Bells to
represent the spirit of the holidays. Composed for the Boston Pops, it has become a staple of
holiday concerts, inviting the audience to sing along to familiar songs.
Program notes compiled by Karin Anderson-Sweet