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Christmas with the Urban Choral Arts Society

December 11, 2021 @6pm

Ronald S. McFadden, Founding Artistic Director

Messiah (Excerpts)

George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)

Dr. Samuel Springer, Organist



II.Comfort ye, comfort ye my people (Tenor Recitative) -Edward Washington, Soloist

III.Ev’ry valley shall be exalted (Air) -Edward Washington, Soloist

IV.And the glory, the glory of the Lord (Chorus)

V.Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts (Bass Recitative)

-John Paige, Soloist*

VI.But who may abide the day of His coming? (Bass Air) -Vincent Dion Stringer, Soloist

VII.Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Alto Recitative) -Candace Potts, Soloist

VIII.O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Alto Air) -Candace Potts, Soloist

IX.For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (Bass Recitative) -Vincent Dion Stringer, soloist

X.The people that walked in darkness (Bass Air) -Vincent Dion Stringer, Soloist

XI.For unto us a Child is born (Chorus)

XII.Glory to God in the highest

XIII.Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (Soprano Air) -Cimone Austin*, Soloist

XIV.He shall feed His flock like a shepherd (Alto & Soprano Air)

-Candace Potts, Soloist

XV.Hallelujah (Chorus)

*Denotes student

10 Minute Intermission

Gospel Mass

Robert Ray (1946-)

Janee Johnson, piano

Richard Milburn, bass

Shakia Paylor, percussion

I. Kyrie

Lord Have Mercy

Jade Madden, Soloist*

II. Gloria

Glory to God in the Highest

Jade Madden, Soloist

III. Credo

I Believe in God

Jade Madden, Soloist

IV. Acclamation

Hallelujah Praise the Lord

V. Sanctus

Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts

Sherry Hunt, Soloist

VI. Agnus Dei

Lamb of God

Cimone Austin, Soloist*

*Denotes student

Program Notes

A messiah is a savior or liberator of group of people. Particularly in the African-American community, there have been many people at different pivotal times in our history that have served as a Messiah. Whether it be the countless conductors on the Underground Railroad, or those who continue to lead the cause of freedom and equity. It has been a goal of mine to fortify my personal toolkit in order to liberate the minds and lives of countless young people so that they can in return, do the same. Our young people are and will be the leaders of today and generations yet unborn. They require fearless leaders that model and guide them through the challenges of life, that will ultimately propel them to be productive and innovative citizens of the world. In the spring of 2015, Urban Choral Arts Society (UCAS) member Mary Fields and I were at a restaurant talking about this very thing, the liberation of our young people through music. There is where the UCAS was born. While we are certainly grateful for the birth and life of Jesus The Christ, who served and remains a Messiah for all who believe, tonight we celebrate His example and are inspired to perpetuate His cause of justice and liberation. This Christmas season, I urge you to reflect on your personal journey of freedom, and how you are liberating your families and communities through service and love.

In Christendom, The Gospel is that Christ was born, Christ lived, and Christ will come again. To me, the true salvific work of the Gospel is established through our precise care of, attention to, and cultural values instilled our children. “Are the Children Well?” is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children’s well-being. Even Masai warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “all the children are well.” Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reasons for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. “All the children are well” means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of existence do not preclude proper caring for their young.

Tonight, you will witness the brilliance of some of the areas most talented youth. Often, the media does not promote the most positive image of our youth or communities. The “gospel” is that our young people can achieve at high levels, especially when the village protects them.

For Christ’s Sake,

Ronald S. McFadden

Founding Artistic Director

Messiah | George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Messiah, an oratorio by German-born English composer George Frideric Handel, premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, at Easter rather than at Christmastime, when it is popularly played in the present day. A large-scale semi dramatic work for chorus, soloists, and orchestra, it is the source of the familiar “Hallelujah Chorus.” Messiah is by far the most frequently performed of all oratorios. The verses used as text for Messiah were assembled by Handel’s friend Charles Jennens, a wealthy supporter of the arts. They were drawn from three parts of the Bible: Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah’s birth; New Testament stories of the birth of Christ, his death, and his resurrection; and verses relating ultimately to Judgment Day, with the final chorus text drawn from the Book of Revelation.

Messiah was a triumphant success at its Irish premiere, perhaps in part because the composer had been in town for most of the winter offering a concert series that attracted considerable attention to his music. The work found less favor in London until 1748, when a somewhat less conservative bishop of London was appointed. Anecdotes of the day suggest that it became a favorite of King George II, who had been Handel’s patron in Hannover before becoming king of England.

The oratorio’s “Hallelujah Chorus” normally occurs at the close of part two. Its instrumental support is unusually bold for the Baroque era. However, the musical structure combines the popular techniques of the day, as the choral parts are sometimes blended in homophonic harmony (with chords supporting a single melody at a time) but just as frequently in polyphonic complexity (with simultaneous and equally important melodies). Its final pages build a fugue on the phrase “And he shall reign.” Many of the choruses in the oratorio feature a similar blending of musical textures, with homophonic and polyphonic passages appearing in turn.

 Gospel Mass | Robert Ray (b. 1946)

Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass was intended as an experimental work, for a one-time performance. The official premiere was in 1979 at the University of Illinois-Urbana, with a chorus of Ray’s students. “There was an incredible response,” Ray recalls. “We performed to jam-packed houses. I was very, very excited. To have that kind of response to the first work you have ever written was very gratifying. Like I said: ‘It was the hand of the Almighty.” This work was written while Ray was a liturgy team leader for the National Office of Black Catholics. The Gospel Mass was created out of a need from these workshops. The Mass is Dr. Ray's interpretation of two thousand years of liturgical tradition with the more contemporary music of the African-American Church. For centuries, composers have taken the text of the Ordinary of the Mass and given them musical settings. Each setting creates within the listener a different feeling about the worship experience. "It is my desire to combine centuries of old traditions of Mass settings with sounds of the contemporary Black Church. The move from Latin to English created new opportunities for composers to express their feelings about the texts of the Ordinary of the Mass.

Even so, Ray never expected Gospel Mass to be performed again. He packed the music in storage and went on with his life. Several years later a friend asked to use Gospel Mass in a high school concert. That concert hooked up Ray with the Hal Leonard music publishing company, which published Gospel Mass and all Ray’s other work. The piece, he believes, struck an ecumenical chord that “allowed people of all denominations or faith to embrace the style.” The music for the Mass, like other pieces Ray later composed, was based on his own musical experience, growing up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I want[ed] everyone to experience the sense of joy and celebration that is generally felt in true African-American worship." -Robert Ray

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