Stephen Mager: Composer -- Conductor

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Joy for Every Age

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To purchase the CD of Joy for Every Age or for more information, please contact Dr. Mager.

Christmas carols for chorus and orchestra

Music of Stephen Mager

A good folk-song setting may be likened to a jeweler’s setting of a fine gem. Rather than attempt to improve upon the original, one ought to display its beauty so that it shines to its own best advantage. These diverse carols possess a marvelous, inherent wealth of beauty, spirit, and genuine sentiment; hence, each in turn is presented in a style which reflects its own distinctive national and expressive character.

Thus, many of the French settings are reminiscent of Gabriel Fauré, or perhaps Georges Bizet; while the Austro-German melodies surely call for a tonal language akin to that of Schubert, Brahms, and even Mahler. Still others, like the exuberant Ding-Dong, Merrily on High, clearly owe a debt to orchestral colorists Respighi and Ravel. Yet, these pieces are not mere, clever parodies. Rather, each is a distinctive setting, at once preserving the integrity of the carol tune, and evoking a fresh and vibrant musical climate in which this lovely melody can flourish.

There are also some new sounds offered here, and new texts as well. Two of the carols are entirely original, the mystical Concert of Angels and the haunting Long, Long Ago. Several others are presented in new translations, conspicuous among them, the moving Annunciation account in the Noël de la Vièrge, the “Carol of the Virgin.”

All of these Christmas songs, whether light or serious, cheerful or mysterious, convey that “joy for every age” first announced to a forlorn world by heavenly messengers. Not only do these carols captivate and delight us, but by their very beauty can hardly fail to impress us with the even more wondrous beauty of the Christmas story.

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Arcangeli Chamber Chorus and Orchestra
Stephen Mager, conductor

Recorded on August 3 and September 1, 1998
at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, Saint Louis, Missouri

Cover art: Annunciation, ca. 1515, by Gérard David
Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum

© 1998 Stephen Mager