Ancient Christmas Songs & Carols is an enchanting collection of Christmas music drawn from the centuries that helps you celebrate the season with family and friends. So get cozy in front of the fire and enjoy the soothing warmth and sparkle of these special songs.
The artistry of the mountain dulcimer, guitar and fiddle make this an unforgettable musical offering. The result showcases rarely-heard carols from the Appalachian mountains, the native American Huron tribe, Ireland, England, Germany and France -- from Medieval times to the present.
Internet reviewer, Richard Keith Banks of www.christmasreviews.com wrote:
“The title is ‘Ancient Christmas’, a title which describes the contents of this work without quite doing justice. I might have named it ‘Come With Me’ — the title of Gabriella Snyder's excellent original Christmas song — because the title of this song better conveys her mission: leading us on a quest to discover Christmas through ancient and traditional carols. I appreciated her song for its authenticity and truth, as well as enjoying the renaissance flavor of the entire CD. With Ms. Snyder on hammer dulcimer [sic], Steve McWhirk on guitar, and Myra Franks on violin and viola, the string arrangements splendidly evoke the "ancient" mood of the eleven selections, many of which were unknown to me. I appreciate toe-tapping seasonal melodies, so my favorite tune was ‘Stars of Glory’, a moody, celtic arrangement whose viola part particularly moved me. “Ancient Christmas” is a well-conceived effort, taking listeners on a unique journey through several centuries of caroling. Come with me, Ms. Snyder seems to say, and listen to the music I love. I'll come with you!”
Here are the song notes for Ancient Christmas:
1) The Coventry Carol
(Music: Traditional English, 1591; Words: Robert Croo, 1534)
Written and performed by members of the Shearman and Tailors' Guild in England, this carol tells the Christmas story as part of a Medieval mystery and miracle play.
2) The Cherry Tree Carol
(Traditional Appalachian from Kentucky)
One of my favorites, this is an old English air which pioneers in the Appalachian mountains changed into a number of distinctly American variants. I play a version of this ballad passed down through the Scottish ancestors in Kentucky of folk artist, Jean Ritchie.
3) Hush My Babe
(Music: Traditional Appalachian; Words: Isaac Watts)
This lullaby, often called Kentucky Carol, uses the same tune as a very wide-spread, southern shape-note song called “I Will Arise.” Gentle words and a solo voice transform that driving choral hymn into a lilting cradle song.
(Traditional French, 18th c., Il Est Né; Bamberger Gesangbuch, 1670, Lieb Nachtigall)
These two folk songs - one from France, one from Germany - seem to match perfectly. The first proclaims: "He is born, the Holy Child, play on the pipe and make merry music!" The second: "Dear nightingale, wake up! And from the boughs of every tree come sing the news most joyfully.
Awake, dear bird, awake!"
5) Come With Me
(Music and Words: © 1996 by Gabriella Snyder, Colla Voce Rec. & Publ.)
I wanted to write a Little Drummer Boy type song, with the wise men hearing about the newborn King and setting out to find Him. I hope this takes you on that journey.
6) Blessed Be That Maid Marie
(Music: William Ballet's Lute Book; Words: Traditional English)
This is a wonderful Renaissance dance, stately and full of vigor!
7) Stars of Glory
The legendary Celtic gift for melodies of haunting beauty makes this carol a timeless gem.
8) I Heard the Voice
(Music: Thomas Tallis, 1505-1585, The Third Tune; Words: Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889)
The Third Tune of Tallis is irresistible for singers and musicians. Although Bonar's poem is not specifically for Christmas, his phrase "I am this dark world's light" immediately made me think of Epiphany - the celebration of the light of Christ appearing in the world, symbolized by the star appearing to the shepherds and wise men.
9) Christ Was Born in Bethlehem
(Traditional Appalachian from North Carolina; Additional Words: © 1996 by Gabriella Snyder, Colla Voce
Rec. & Publ.)
The original version of this tune, recorded in 1918 by Cecil Sharp in his book “English Folk Songs From the Southern Appalachians”, only has one verse - the first - pertaining to Christmas. I liked this tune so much - it's a classic mountain dulcimer piece - that I wrote four more verses, basing them on the gospel of Luke.
10) 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime
(Music: Traditional French, 16th c., Une Jeune Pucelle; Words: Jesse Edgar Middleton,1872-1960)
First introduced by Jesuit missionaries to the Huron people in 17th-century Canada, this French folk tune was transformed into a carol that depicts Native American images of Christ's nativity.
11)On This Day
(Music and Words: from Piae Cantiones, 1582)
The quintessential Renaissance celebration!
Gabriella Snyder is a mezzo-soprano, voice teacher, and composer of solo vocal, choral and instrumental music. Her three-act musical drama, ”Prince of Peace - A Passion Play”, based on the passion play of award-winning poet, Catherine de Vinck, was premiered in 2003 at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Boston. This recorded performance featured conductor, organ, five soloists, and members of the Saengerfest Men's Chorus and Concord Madrigals. Her newest music drama “Rough-Face Girl: An Algonquin Cinderella” will be premiered by MassTheatrica in November 2009.
Snyder’s song cycle, ”Ordinary Miracles - Poetry of Recovery”, was performed for the dedication concert in July 1995 at the reopening of the Pont-Aven School of Art in Pont-Aven, Brittany, France, an artists' colony first begun by the Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin. Her choral setting of Psalm 150 was premiered in June 1999 in a tribute at Immaculate Conception Parish observing the 350th year of the founding of Malden, MA. Snyder has also written piano etudes, “Duo for Violin and Cello”, instrumental, choral and solo vocal pieces.
An advocate of new music, Snyder was the understudy for Metropolitan Opera soprano, Louise Wohlafka, in the world premier of Dan Locklair's opera "Good Tidings from the Holy Beast”. She performed in the premier of the improvisational music drama “Between the Lines” at the Boston Public Library, Copley Square, for the Boston-based New Opera Theater Ensemble (N.O.T.E.).
Her work in opera and oratorio includes roles with the Newton Opera Workshop: Zerlina in “Don Giovanni”, Musetta in "La Boheme”, and Cherubino in "The Marriage of Figaro”. She sang the role of The Abbess in Puccini's “Suor Angelica” with MassTheatrica. She sang the role of Mrs. Gleaton in "Susannah” with Lowell House Opera, and the role of Lucy in Menotti's ”The Telephone” at Cabot House, both at Harvard University. She appeared as Rose Maybud in a production of "Ruddigore” by the Binghamton Summer Savoyards, and sang the leading role in Donizetti's "Rita” with the Lyric Opera of the Twin Tiers, New York. As a concert soloist, she has worked with, among others, the Woods Hole Cantata Consort, the Falmouth Interfaith Chorus, the Stow Community Chorus, and the Harpur Chorale of Binghamton University, NY.
Not only a classical musician, Ms. Snyder also has a longtime interest in traditional music with its raw power and harmonies. The songs she has written in the folk idiom reflect this penchant. Some, like “Oh What a Day”, echo the sounds of the Southern uplands; others, like "God's Hand to You”, have a distinct Celtic flavor. Her Christmas carol "Come With Me” rings with the sounds of the Renaissance. She was the principal singer and mountain dulcimer player from 1989 to 1993 with The Sacred Harp
Ensemble, a group she founded to perform traditional American sacred music. She performed from 1993 to 1997 with the acoustic duo "Snyder & Rasmussen” which produced a recording of Celtic, traditional and original songs called “Keeper of Memories”. Her CD "Ancient Christmas - Songs & Carols” showcases many rarely heard carols from the Appalachian mountains, the native American Huron tribe, Ireland, England, Germany and France – from Medieval times to the present.
Snyder has performed traditional music featuring mountain dulcimer at festivals and coffeehouses throughout New England, including First Night Boston, First Night Pittsfield, Full Cup Coffeehouse, Stoneham, TryWorks Coffeehouse, New Bedford, Jacob's Ladder Coffeehouse, Malden, the Malden Family Festival, the Troy Arts Festival, NH, Pilgrim Pines Conference Center, NH, as well as historical societies and libraries. She has played live on WKNH-FM, Keene, NH and WSMU-FM, New
Ms. Snyder studied voice with Louise Wohlafka, formerly a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She was a student of the late David Blair McClosky of Boston Conservatory, known as John F. Kennedy's vocal coach during the presidential campaign in 1960. She learned the Berton Coffin method (phonetic basis of bel canto) from Robert Gartside, retired professor of the Voice Faculty at Boston University's School for the Arts. Ms. Snyder studied counterpoint at Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, drama at Roberson Center for the Arts, Binghamton, New York, and orchestration with Jerry Gates, on faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She served as interim choir director at St. Paul’s Parish in Malden, and as soprano soloist at many churches of various denominations. She teaches singing, ear training and theory privately.