The following is a brief essay from the program of “In The Company of Angels.”
What are angels? They appear as messengers or agents from the divine, but also share some aspects of the divine. Angels embody healing, justice, power or kindness, and can be guardians of humans—the innocent and the flawed alike. They are depicted as both human-like, and otherwordly. World religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahá’í, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism—all recognize and celebrate angels as perhaps the most common mediators between humankind and the divine.
“In the Company of Angels” is inspired by the language and music of the eternal desire for connectedness to the spiritual, the search for the mystical. Eric Whitacre’s song St. Chappelle is a perfect example. It describes a young girl’s encounter with this French chapel’s famous, intensely colored stained glass windows. The text illuminates her mystical experience as she imagines the angels in the windows singing to her and with her.
It happens that there are many songs about angels, so we chose pieces whose texts expand on this theme, offering multiple perspectives. From songs of shepherds hearing the music of angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest” to more traditional settings of the Gloria by Josef Haydn from his St. Cecilia Mass. The mystical theme is amplified in Hymn to the Eternal Flame, a piece composed to commemorate the freeing of the Jews from the Nazis. Here the text ponders how every face, every voice, every sorrow, every love are woven together into fire, the fire of pain and the fire of cleansing and liberation. The angels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel, as well as the angelic Seraphim, are represented throughout. We also present songs that relate to the Christmas story: angelic visits to Mary announcing her motherhood, and to shepherds and kings surrounding the baby’s birth. Audiences enjoy singing carols with Ragazzi’s boys, and there are many carols involving angels. This concert includes Angels We Have Heard on High. The angels’ song is also heard in O Come All Ye Faithful.
We wish you the best of the holidays, and are delighted you can join us today.
—Joyce Keil, Artistic Director