Hail, Christmas Day!

  • Composer: Abbie Betinis 
  • Publisher: Self-Published - contact the composer/arranger
  • Canadian Composition: No
  • Duration: 1:45
  • Sample Track:

Program Notes:

This joyful carol is another in Abbie Betinis’ annual Christmas card carols. The poem is by her grandfather, John Harris Burt. The Latin lines interspersed with English express gratitude and celebration.

Conductor Notes:

SSAA a cappella (also available for SATB). I had never had a round that moves between 7/8 and 9/8 stuck in my head until Elektra learned this great little piece. I can’t say enough about Abbie’s ability to write something that is satisfying to sing.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

I have been spending my Christmases in Marquette, Michigan since 1984, the year my grandparents, John and Martha Burt, decided to make the shores of Lake Superior their year-round home. At Christmas Eve we sing carols around the creche, each one taking turns choosing a carol. Last year my grandmother requested my carol, “In a Far Judean City,” and it was exciting for me to fully become part of that longstanding Burt tradition of Christmas Eve.

Another family tradition of singing rounds, or canons, was a major influence on this year’s carol, “Hail, Christmas Day!” which features a round in its final verse. My family loves to sing rounds around the campfire, during long car trips, while hiking, etc. I’ve enjoyed “holding my own harmony” ever since I can remember, always fascinated by the prospect of one melody cycling around to create so many rich harmonies.

Grandpa (Rev. John H. Burt, the author of this poem) has always been my biggest fan and especially encouraged me to study music. He is a fine pianist and we all love to sing and play instruments while he plays jazz and Broadway standards on the piano at every visit.

I’ve tried to make this year’s carol, “Hail, Christmas Day!” historically accurate, yet immediately accessible. Grandpa’s text is written in a medieval style prominent especially in the 14th-16th century, when Latin phrases were often used to close each verse (the well-known carol In Dulci Jubilo is an example). I wanted my music to reflect the dance rhythms of the medieval ages, so I used an alternating meter, with accents that shift and surprise the listener. I also wanted to involve the strong tradition of round-singing, which was coming into its own in the years leading up to the 16th century. In the final verse of my carol, each voice begins in sequence, until there are three wholly different lines occurring at once, joyfully cycling around.


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