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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Choir Music Beyond ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’

The Calhoun Choir. (Courtesy of Calhoun Choir)

Sure, “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” is a staple for many a Christmas concert. But as Ron Cohen, Robin Young’s former choir director, points out, there is a rich repertoire of other choir music out there.

He came to our studio in his Santa hat and red suspenders, well-worn mix tape in tow, and he took us through some of his favorites.

Ron Cohen, Robin's former choir director at the J.F.K. High School Choir in Plainview Long Island. (Robin Lubbock/Here & Now)

That included a rare recording of the J.F.K. choir singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” which he still remembers seeing John F. Kennedy High School Choir students sing every Christmas as part of a traditional processional.

“The greatest memory I have of the choir is the processional. Just putting the candles in all of your guys faces… and seeing you go down the aisle with ice blue lighting and just the candles, coming to the stage and then breaking into four part harmony. It just speaks of what Christmas is all about,” he said us.

Ron Cohen’s Choral Favorites
1. John Rutter “Gloria Patri (from Magnificat)” Performed by The Cambridge Singers with The City of London Sinfonia.

2. Healey Willan “An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts” performed by The Sanford H. Calhoun High School Choir, S. Talbot Thayer, Director.

3. Gaudete (traditional), arranged by Michael McGlynn performed by Anúna.

4. John Heiss Carol of the Wise Men, performed by the John F. Kennedy High School Choir.

5. Gian Carlo Menotti, “Have you seen a Child (from Amahl and the Night Visitors) — performed by Rosemary Kuhlmann, Andrew McKinley, David Aiken, Leon Lishner.

6. Arthur Honegger “Une cantate de Noël,” Performed by: Jindřich Jindrák – baritone, Jaroslav Tvrzský – organ. Czech Chorus, Chorus Master Josef Veselka, Kühn Children’s Chorus, Chorus Master Jiři Chvála, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Serge Baudo.

7. “O Come, O Come,Emmanuel” (traditional) performed by John F. Kennedy High School Choir.
We also played George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah, HWV 56. Pt. 2: Hallelujah (Chorus: Allegro) performed by the King’s College Choir, David Willcocks, conductor.

And, speaking of holiday music, listener Dwight Wolter sent this video along:


  • Ron Cohen, Robin Young’s former choir director at the John F.Kennedy High School in Plainview Long Island

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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