No matter what musical genre you prefer, chances are that at least one popular artist has recorded a Christmas carol or song in that style. “White Christmas,” for instance, which was written by Irving Berlin in 1942, has been recorded more than 500 different ways. But it’s “Silent Night”, which was written in 1861 and put to music two years later that tops the list, with more than 700 copyrighted recordings.
Dr. Larry Wyatt, who directs the University of South Carolina’s concert choir, enjoys Silent Night as well. So much so that each year, he looks for a new version for the choir to perform at its annual Christmas concert. So far, he’s up to 16. “ ‘Silent Night’ has always been included in the program, but it became fun to look for a new composition to include each year,” he says. “It’s become a tradition.”
This year’s “Silent Night” is an arrangement by School of Music faculty member, Dr. John Valerio, and it’s composed in a slow jazz waltz style with fresh harmonies.
The rest of the program is made up of choral classics and carols, including Franz Schubert’s “Gloria,” J.S. Bach’s “Nun ist das Heil” and Poulenc’s “Christmas Motets”. “There’s 500 years worth of beautiful Christmas music out there, so it’s hard to choose,” Wyatt said. “My goal is to provide an enjoyable program that’s musically challenging for the student members, while also offering a historical perspective.” He has succeeded: early out-of-town performances garnered four standing ovations.
The USC Concert Choir’s annual Christmas Concert takes place Friday, Dec. 5, at First Presbyterian Church (1324 Marion St.) at 7:30 p.m. A second concert is scheduled for December 7 at Shandon United Methodist Church (3407 Devine St.) at 7 p.m. Both concerts are free. For more information, visit sc.edu/music
Katie McElveen, Special to The State