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By Elissa Weller, VocalEssence

2012 marks the 15th year of the annual Welcome Christmas Carol Contest. Co-sponsored by VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum (ACF), the Welcome Christmas Carol Contest provides composers with the opportunity to compose a modern-day yuletide carol, to be sung, you guessed it, by the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers.

This year’s winning compositions included “A Christmas Bird” by Sheena Phillips and “This Night” by David Biedenbender, both composed for SATB chorus accompanied by concert C flute. The new carols were premiered on the Welcome Christmas concerts at the beginning of December.

Sheena Phillips is a native of the UK and has received commissions and performances from groups in the US and the UK. Her piece, “A Christmas Bird,” sets a poem by Irish writer Katharine Tynan (1859 – 1931). In the musical setting, the flute plays the role of the bird – imagined here as hopping from branch to branch, and tune to tune, as he utters his joyous response to the events of Christmas.

David Biedenbender’s first musical collaborations were in rock and jazz bands as an electric bassist and in wind and jazz bands as a bass trombone and euphonium player. Recent recognition for his work includes two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and the Ettelson Composers Award from Composer’s, Inc. His piece, “This Night,” is a setting of “This Night a Wondrous Revelation,” the English translation of the German poem “Dies ist die Nacht, da mir erschien­en” which was written in 1683 by Caspar Fried­rich Nach­ten­höf­er. In a review of the concerts, local critic Rob Hubbard called the new carol, “simply beautiful.”

Both carols will be broadcast nationally on Classcial MPR in December of 2013. To hear the 2011 concert and carol winners, tune in to Classical MPR 99.5 FM on Christmas Day, December 25, 2012 at 5pm or listen online.

Photo by Stephen Maturen

Photo by Stephen Maturen

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