Howard Arman (*1954) Christmas Surprises
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Howard Arman, director of the Bavarian Radio Choir, has been actively engaged with international Christmas carols through various Christmas-related CD productions of his choir in the past years. This has resulted in a number of original arrangements for four- to eight-part mixed choir a cappella, shedding new light on well-known classics such as O du fröhliche [O, you joyful], Stille Nacht [Silent Night] and Lasst uns froh und munter sein [Let us be happy and cheerful]. The first volume includes five Christmas carols from the German-speaking regions. They range from simple but harmonically intriguing settings such as Lieb Nachtigall, wach auf [Dear nightingale, wake up] to eight-part sound paintings with bell-like chimes as in O du fröhliche and classical double choir settings such as Resonet in laudibus.
The second volume includes five Christmas spirituals with English texts, forming a contrast to the solemn and festive character of the first. The choir can prove its swing and jazz qualities here; the stirring arrangements are a gain for classical Christmas concerts, too. Following the tradition of the spiritual, some settings also require soloists, which can, however, also be recruited from the choir if adequate singers are available. The first piece combines the spirituals It’s a Birthday and Wasn’t That a Mighty Day to form a medley, Ain’t That a Rockin’ gives a moment of tranquility before the likewise rousing spirituals Mary Had a Baby and Little David conclude the volume.
In both volumes, Howard Arman provides a short preface in German and English, explaining the background of each piece and giving advice on performance.
Audio samples: Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, dir. Howard Arman (Sony & BR-Klassik, 2016-2018)