Sunday, December 1, 2019

The 2019 Murfin Winter Holidays Music Festival Day One—O Holy Night

The Annual Murfin Winter Holidays Music Festival works like this.  Every year beginning on the First Sunday of Advent until the Feast of the Epiphany—the Day of the Three Kings—on January 6, I will post a seasonal song, not only sacred and secular Christmas favorites, but songs celebrating the many winter festivals observed during this time of year including Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia, Winter Solstice, Boxing Day, and New Years.  I try to mix up the familiar with what might not be so well known including songs from different cultures and new music.  Of course there will be plenty of time and space for the old chestnuts.   Regular followers know that I am especially fond of the secular songs of the Golden Age of American Christmas Music which stretched roughly from the early 1930’s to the late 1970’s.
I am also eager to get suggestions and requests.  You can message me on Facebook, e-mail , or post a comment to a blog entry.

The logo of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.
This year we begin by noting the coincidence of the First Sunday in Advent with World AIDS Day.  In honor of that we feature the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA), the oldest, largest, and most prestigious Gay Chorus in the United States.  It was formed in 1979 at Plummer Park Community Center in Los Angeles, with 99 members.  Its first public performance was at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that October and they also performed at n the first ever national LGBT concert at the Washington Memorial.
As GMCLA continued to grow throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s the AIDS crisis did not spare its members, the chorus suffered the loss of its musical director, Jerry Carlson, to as well as over 20 other members by 1988. Ultimately, over 150 members were lost to the AIDS pandemic leaving only eight original members of the chorus as members now known as the “First Nighters.”
The Chorus has grown in size, gained professional artistic and administrative staff, toured nationally and internationally, released 16 CDs, and appeared with numerous stage, film, and television celebrities including Billy Porter, Lily Tomlin, Angela Lansbury, Bea Arthur, Jerry Herman, Melissa Manchester, Mary McDonnell, Stephen Schwartz, Liz Callaway, Lance Bass, Jennifer Holliday, LeAnn Rimes, and Christy Metz. The Chorus has appeared on several television broadcasts including the 85th Academy Awards, Access Hollywood, Will & Grace, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Mad TV, and a six-episode arc on Six Feet Under.
Back in 2011 I was honored and astonished when Chorus members commissioned an original choral setting from my poem Rainbows Are Not Enough as a retirement salute to their long-time music director. The poem was included in my 2004 Skinner House Books collection We Build Temples in the Heart.

Members of the GMCLA don ugly Christmas sweater in a holiday performance.
GMCLA’s annual Holiday Spectacular concerts are highly awaited seasonal programs.  Today’s selection, O Holy Night was featured in the 2012 program and featured baritone Louis Ramirez. 

You can still make it this year's GMCLA Holiday Spetacular.
O Holy Night was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem Minuit, chrétiens (Midnight, Christians) written by wine merchant and poet Placide Cappeau. Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music, translated the song into English lyrics in 1855.  In both the French original and the English version of the carol, as well as in many other languages, the text reflects on the birth of Jesus and on humanity’s redemption.

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