December 24th, 2014
High worship in the Anglo-Catholic style, Chicago's historic Episcopal Church of the Atonement provides a warm and formal environment to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Featuring members of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra
Atonement Schola and Choir
Charles Sega, choirmaster
Haydn: Saint Nicholas Mass
Rutter: What Sweeter Music
Boyle: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
Gabriel Jackson: To Morning
Episcopal Church of the Atonement
10:00 p.m. Carol Service
10:30 p.m. Mass
No admission or ticket necessary, but seating may be limited.
An early arrival is advised.
For much of his life Haydn’s energies were devoted primarily to composing orchestral and instrumental music. The Saint Nicholas Mass, which was written in 1772, is one of comparatively few choral works that he wrote before he was fifty. The supreme choral masterpieces of his old age–The Creation, The Seasons, and the six great Masses, including the well-known Lord Nelson Mass –were all composed during the last fifteen years of his life.
The autographed manuscript of the Saint Nicholas Mass and all the original orchestral parts were found intact in the Esterhazy archives at Eisenstadt Castle. It seems more than likely, therefore, that it was written to celebrate the nameday – the Feast of Saint Nicholas – of Haydn’s employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, on 6th December 1772. The Mass follows the usual format of Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. As was sometimes the custom, the Credo is in a compressed form, with different lines of the text sung simultaneously by the four sections of the choir. Whilst this may have been confusing for the people, for the composer it had the merit of keeping the mass shorter than it otherwise would have been, whilst at the same time complying with the church’s stipulation that the text must not be cut. The Saint Nicholas Mass is not on the same scale as the late masses (it is about half the length of the Nelson Mass) but it is nevertheless quintessential Haydn in its energy, its tunefulness and, above all, its infectious joy