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Noel! Hodie Christus natus est. Today Christ is born.

Vaughan Williams’ Christmas Choral work, Hodie, begins with this text.

The text is taken from the Vespers for Christmas Day.

That’s an interesting choice for a composer who wrote Anglican Hymns like they were going out of style. Currently Anglican Hymns are out of style so maybe Vaughan Williams was onto something.

Hodie may begin with a Latin text but the majority of the work is in English and comprised of poems by several poets including Milton and Hardy.

Vaughan Williams was in his early eighties when he wrote this work but it is has the energy of a much younger composer.

Hodie has been criticized for being inconsistent in style. I get that but I don’t care. I think this music is joyous and appropriate for the season.

The structure of Hodie is a collection of Christmas poems tied together by narration.

In the role of narrator is a children’s chorus. The children’s chorus is a sly inclusion because it involves the kids in the telling of the Christmas story.

When has Christmas been more magical then when we were children? I’m not sure but I like it.

Hodie is also one of a handful of classical Christmas compositions that aren’t Bach or liturgical.

What I like most about Hodie is that to me if “feels” more like Christmas than some of the other classical works for the season.

Perhaps that’s because the modern “Christmas spirit” evolved out of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Vaughan Williams is also British? It’s hard to quantify.

Should you go out of your way to hear Hodie this season? Sure why not? Listen to Nat King Cole a few more times and then give Vaughan Williams a shot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM05a6-Qhx4&feature=related

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Comments

pcbick Dec. 30, 2010 @ 2:56 p.m.

You're certainly right about V-W's Hodie, and there are several other not-so-well-known 19th- and 20th-c. works for Christmas that are well worth a listen: Rheinberger's Star of Bethlehem, Saint-Saens' Christmas Oratorio, and Honeggers's Christmas Cantata, for three.

Peter Bickelmann

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