How to listen to the music of “Wintersong”

Boys singing in that ephemeral, unique angelic sound–why do we love it so much? Because of its pure beauty, because it lasts for such a short time in a boy’s life or because of the contrast between the ethereal sound coming from raucous, rambunctious, active boys? It’s a combination of nature, the gift of the boy voice, with hard work and years of training that create the magic. This concert will showcase these boy voices in music that explores the stratosphere of the boy soprano sound.

Alleluia Super Round starts off with a lone saxophone solo followed by a single boy soprano. As the voices enter, the sounds pile up on top of each other, creating overtones and combinations that are too mysterious to follow. You have to simply allow yourself to be enveloped in the sound until it all resolves to a quiet single tone.

The Snow creates a passionate longing for purity and redemption through sonorous violin solos and long, beautiful melodies that build in intensity and fervor. The soprano part is most important, but all the voices have important solo moments as they explore the text of how snow is pure and white and while our souls long for that, we don’t want to fade away the way the snow does.

Jubilate Deo is a bouncy, joyful piece in Latin celebrating “Praise the Lord.” Each voice makes its own statement in bright rhythms with some imitation. You can hear the same melody repeated at various levels as different voices exclaim the text. At the end, the soprano part becomes the most important as the other parts join in a hymn-like conclusion.

Carol of the Rose is another song where, like The Snow, melody is all important. Listen to the soprano line while the other voices provide harmony. Each verse is basically the same but at a different pitch level and slight changes in the final chords. There is a beautiful piano interlude in between all the verses that creates a sort of meditation on the text, which is about a poor boy who has nothing to give the baby Jesus except a kiss.

Eatnemen Vuelie from the movie Frozen sets the famous hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” sung in Norwegian by the crystal clear boy voices over a pulsing, rhythmic chant sung by the men.

Miserere text is penitential. Yet when King David regrets his inappropriate actions with the wife of one of his soldiers whom he has killed, the ending is full of hope. This is a piece that lives on many levels. You will hear the melody imitated throughout the levels of the voices after sections where the soprano melody is dominant. Listen for the tension created when a voice begins to clash with the harmony and then beautifully resolves. You can also revel in the soaring high c’s sung by the sopranos. In between you will hear monk-like Gregorian chants.

Dona Nobis (grant us peace) creates beautiful harmonic tension as the text repeats over a pulsing bass line and slowly shifting harmonies. It is ethereal and captivating all at once.

Non vos (I will not leave you comfortless) is another early piece with imitation. Listen for the call and response every time the text “Alleluia” is iterated. The melody is decorated with little trills and all the voices are equal, so let your ear wander up and down the scale to catch all the echoes.

Gaudete (praise!) is an ancient text set here with a modern harmony enlivened by percussion. It is sectional and you can hear a contrast each time the chorus sings the text in a new way, throwing new light on the meaning of praise.

Ave Maria is a familiar staple of Ragazzi, but listen closely to the way the harmonies undulate and overlap to create beautiful tension and resolution. The full chorus is supplemented by the small group who takes the melody to higher planes as the lines weave in and out of each other.

Traditional carols and hymns fill out our program. After all that listening, we hope you will feel propelled to join us in song. The joyful and bouncy Sing We Now of Christmas, In the Bleak Midwinter, and the carols with audience: The First Nowell, Away in a Manger, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful.



Joyce Keil interviewed by KDFC


‘Tis the season!