An early Samuel Barber cantata is premiered

by Michael Barone, Minnesota Public Radio
December 19, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — As a special treat for the Christmas season, Iain Quinn, Associate Professor of Organ at Florida State University in Tallahassee, recently completed a reconstruction of an early work by American composer Samuel Barber, a miniature holiday cantata titled Christmas Eve. Scored for three vocal soloists and organ, the manuscript pages are not dated but, judging from Barber's handwriting, the music likely was written when he was 10 to 12 years old. Even so, the charming little work, lasting only four minutes, demonstrates the young composer's significant ability to intuit the American cantata style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The cantata's first public performance took place as part of the 104th Annual Christmas Carol Service at Harvard University on Dec. 15 and 16, 2013, by the Harvard University Choir conducted by Edward Jones with organist Christian Lane. A subsequent performance is scheduled for Christmas Eve at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City by the Cathedral's choir under the direction of Malcolm Merriweather.

American Public Media's Performance Today aired a recording of the piece, sung by the Harvard Choral Fellows, on Dec. 13, 2013. APM's Pipedreams has included that recording in Program #1350 ("An American Organist's Christmas"), and an interview of Professor Quinn by Pipedreams host Michael Barone, along with an 'encore' of the Harvard Choral Fellows performance, is available above and as additional audio on the Pipedreams program website.

The reconstructed score will be published by G. Schirmer in 2014.

Enjoy...and Merry Christmas!

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